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How Real Is the Need for Emerging Market Dividend ETFs?

NEW YORK ( ETF Expert) -- Recently, investors have been willing to take on a bit more cyclical growth risk. Specifically, they've pushed up the prices on technology and materials stocks, and pushed down the prices of dividend stalwarts from Verizon (VZ) to Altria (MO).

Even so, you would be hard pressed to find many who are ready to give up on the relative safety of income-producing assets. The love affair with Treasury bonds won't go away simply because bond bears say, "See, the 10-year is up from 1.4% to 1.6%. The Treasury trade is unwinding!"

In reality, the intermediate- and long-term trends both still favor dividend producers. What may be less certain is whether or not the same dynamic is beginning to make its way into emerging market equities.

At the present time, there are roughly five emerging market dividend vehicles with sufficient dollar volume. With the exception of WisdomTree High Yield Equity Income (DEM), however, few have been around for an extensive period. What's more, there's a rather dramatic difference in the performance of the various products.

Here is a comparison of emerging market dividend ETFs that are less commodity-oriented and more income-oriented, percentage of growth year to date and comparison to two benchmarks.

WisdomTree Asia Pacific Ex Japan (AXJL), 11.0%

WisdomTree Emerging Market Small Cap Dividend (DGS), 7.6%

WisdomTree Emerging Market High Equity Income (DEM), 4.1%

SPDR S&P Emerging Market Dividend (EDIV), -6.3%

EG Shares Low Volatility Emerging Market Dividend (HILO), 4.2%

Vanguard Emerging Markets (VWO), 7.6%

SPDR S&P Emerging Market Small Cap (EWX), 14.1%

Neither the large-cap dividend emergers nor the lone small-cap dividend emerger performed as well as the broader emerging market benchmarks in 2012. This may come as a surprise when one considers how well Vanguard High Dividend Yield (VYM) and iShares High Dividend Equity (HDV) have done in comparison to SPDR S&P 500 (SPY). Until very recently, VYM and HDV were outperforming SPY. (Note: As of Tuesday, SPY has an 11% edge over VYM and HDV's approximate gains of 10%.)

Most analysts acknowledge that over any length of time -- short , medium, or long term -- emerging-market corporations will grow both their earnings and their dividends at a faster pace than developed-world companies. Tet, emerging market dividend funds are not currently competitive with U.S. dividend funds nor the broader emerging market benchmarks.
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