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First Trust ETF Joins the Hunt for Foreign Dividends

Amid surging popularity for dividend -centric ETFs, First Trust has just thrown its hat into the foreign dividend ETF ring with the First Trust Global Select Dividend Fund (FGD).

FGD is similar to ETFs from several different providers: iShares EPAC Select Dividend Index Fund (IDV), PowerShares International Dividend Achievers (PID) and the WisdomTree DEFA High Yielding ETF (DTH).

Like all of those funds, FGD is heaviest in financial stocks -- but, at 34.84% weight, it is the lightest of the four. (The S&P 500 has 18.66% in financials.) FGD generally has evenly spread exposure to the other sectors, but no technology. It also has one very noticeable quirk compared to the other funds: a very large 15.22% in the utility sector, compared to single-digit weightings for the other funds. It makes sense in that utilities usually pay high dividends, but it does add risk in that utilities tend to be interest-rate sensitive, and a dramatic rise in rates could cause FGD to lag its competitors.

The country makeup is generally the same as the others, heaviest in Australia at 28.41%, followed by Great Britain at 22.14%. However, FGD allocates 20.08% to the U.S., while none of the other funds have U.S. exposure. FGD also allocates 8.01% to Canada, which is in PID at 20.08%, not in DTH at all and at a 0.93% weight in IDV.

The reason to mention Canada at all is that its market, even the financials, has held up very well during the liquidity crisis of the last few months. Recent central-bank activity, the loonie perhaps getting ahead of itself and Canada's vulnerability to oil-price declines may add up to an argument for not being overweight. I do think some exposure, more than 0.93%, is warranted.

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