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New ETF Tries to Capture Dividend Growth

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Income-oriented investors will continue to place a heavy emphasis on dividends because even when the Federal Reserve does start to reduce its asset purchases, and then after that when it begins to set interest rates at more normal levels, bond yields will still be very low for quite a while.

The newest fund to offer a dividend strategy is the ProShares S&P 500 Aristocrats ETF (NOBL). The word "aristocrats" in the name of the fund indicates that the holdings in NOBL have raised their dividends at least once a year for 25 years.

NOBL owns 54 companies from the S&P 500 that meets this criterion. Consumer staples is the largest sector at 23%, followed by industrials at 15%, materials 13% and consumer discretionary and financials each with 12%.

Traditionally, higher-yielding sectors such as utilities and telecom each have less than 2% weightings in the fund, which brings up an important point: NOBL is not intended to be a high-yield vehicle but is instead meant to capture growth in dividends. The big idea of the strategy is dividends that increase will be able to increase the investor's income at a rate that exceeds the rate of inflation.

ProShares reports that the index underlying NOBL has a trailing yield of 2.57%, which after accounting for the fund's 0.35% expense ratio could put the yield of the fund at 2.22%.

The longstanding SPDR S&P Dividend ETF (SDY) has a similar strategy, owning stocks from the S&P 1500 Composite Index that have raised their dividends for at least 20 years. The constituency of SDY is similar to NOBL with staples, industrials, materials and financials all having large weightings in the fund.

Although SDY has 83 holdings, compared with 54 for NOBL, the two funds have 48 holdings in common, and so both NOBL and SDY are likely to look similar to each other. That creates a back test of sorts for NOBL.

SDY started trading in late 2005. Since then, it has looked similar to the S&P 500, albeit with a slightly higher yield, SDY has a trailing yield of 2.55%, compared with 2.02% for the SPDR S&P 500 (SPY). According to Morningstar, SDY has a total return of 67% since inception, compared with 58% for SPY.

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