The solution to foreign exposure with broad-based funds, but bypassing the lousy fundamentals in EFA, could be to combine slightly narrower funds to achieve a reasonably broad allocation. A combination of the ABC High Dividend ETF and the Global X Nordic 30 ETF (GXF) would be one way to go. GXF allocates 47% to Sweden, 22% Denmark, Norway 17% and Finland 14%. Obviously, this mix at the country level, when combined with the ABC fund, looks much different than EFA.
The sector allocations between ABCS and GXF also offer diversification. Financials are the largest sector in GXF at 27% followed by industrials at 21% and tech at 11% which is a much different mix than telecom and utilities in ABCS, which speaks well of this pairing. A notable but modest underweight would be energy. ABCS has 9% in energy and GXF only has 6%. A small allocation to an energy fund would, of course, address this issue. The EG Shares Emerging Markets Energy ETF (EEO) would obviously fill the energy need, provide a little more emerging-market exposure, but do so without overlapping the Brazilian stocks in the ABC High Dividend ETF.
If the U.S., Europe and Japan continue to struggle in the new decade as they did in the previous decade then portfolio success will require innovative ideas including looking under the hood of narrow ETFs and creating a combination more suited to what is going on in the world today.
Disclosure: GXF and VALE are client holdings.