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When Not to Be Stylish Going Abroad

In the past couple of years, as foreign investing has become more popular, the investment community has obliged that demand with many new products. As with new products in any field, there are bound to be failures, and investments are no exception. I want to point out a pair of new ETFs that offers investors little advantage.

Last summer, in an effort to blend foreign exposure and preferred investing style -- growth or value -- in one product, iShares came out with two exchange-traded funds that split the EAFE (Europe, Australasia, Far East) index into growth and value funds: iShares MSCI EAFE Growth Fund (EFG) and iShares MSCI EAFE Value Fund (EFV). These funds divide EAFE in a similar manner to the way iShares has split the S&P 500 and Russell indices.

I don't believe using style-based ETFs to access foreign markets is a great way to go. That's something investors already may have figured out: Both funds have seen only anemic volume. Among the issues I see: flaws in the weightings given to the component countries, trouble evaluating the prospects of so many different countries for value or growth -- and most important (or damning): simpler, cheaper and more effective alternatives.

Unusual Attributes

While country makeup is virtually identical in the growth and value ETFs, the sector allocations have some differences and some similarities, and the biggest difference is in the financial sector. The value fund has 41% weighting in the financial sector, compared with finance's 15% weighting in the growth fund. The two funds have similar weightings in consumer discretionary, industrials, energy and telecom.

Because both funds are so new, the dividend information may not be complete, but ETFconnect has both funds yielding roughly 0.5%. In comparison, the iShares MSCI EAFE Index Fund (EFA) yields 1.79%.
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