NEW YORK (ETF Expert) -- Throughout 2012, I chose exchange-traded-fund assets that offered twice the annual cash flow of what the 10-year Treasury yielded. This meant pursuing capital appreciators and/or yield producers with a 3.0%-4.0% annualized income stream.In the stock world, many client portfolios contained iShares MSCI Australia ( EWA), WisdomTree Dividend Ex Financials ( DTN), Vanguard High Dividend Yield ( VYM) and iShares MSCI Malaysia ( EWM). Real estate investment trusts (REIT) like Plum Creek Timber ( PCL) and REIT ETFs like SPDR Dow Jones Global Real Estate ( RWO) also fit the bill. From the land of higher-yielding income, clients benefited from funds like iShares Preferred ( PFF), SPDR High Yield ( JNK) as well as Guggenheim Multi-Asset Income ( CVY). Even investment-grade bond ETFs like PowerShares Emerging Market Sovereign ( PCY) and Vanguard Intermediate Corporate ( VCIT) figured prominently. Simply put, when the return on cash is 0%, and when the return on a 10-year Treasury is less than a realistic index for inflation, one should expect the demand for viable alternatives to remain strong. And throughout the past 12 months, selecting investments with twice the annual yield of the 10-year proved to be a venerable approach. In truth, I do not expect investor demand to change all that much in 2013. Central banks around the world will continue to suppress developed-country bonds, forcing investors to move further up the risk ladder. That said, there are reasons to believe that some of the least income-friendly stock ETFs are about to see super-sized price gains. And for those who enjoy challenging conventional wisdom, the WisdomTree Japan Hedged Equity Fund ( DXJ) may worthy of a look. Japan has a spending problem such that its budget as a percentage of GDP rivals Greece and Egypt. Yet the world's third largest economy may still find a way to grow, now that the country has a new prime minister. Shinzo Abe is determined to weaken the yen through aggressive monetary policy, theoretically making Japan's exports more competitive worldwide. In truth, the anticipation of monetary policy intervention has had a strong hand in propping up Japanese equities already. Unfortunately, hedged stock ETFs like iShares MSCI Japan ( EWJ) have been hindered by the currency declines. Enter the dollar-hedged alternative, WisdomTree Japan Hedged Equity. In the same manner that WisdomTree Europe Hedged Equity takes the euro out of play for investors intrigued by European brand name biggies, DXJ is doing the same for Japanese corporations. In fact, DXJ has returned 16% on the year, twice the 8% return of EWJ.
Assuming the yen continues to weaken in 2013, DXJ may be the ideal ticket to profit from the "Land of the Rising Sun." Still, DXJ's vertical move higher over the last five weeks might lead some investors to wait for a 4% to 5% pullback.
You can listen to the ETF Expert Radio Show "LIVE", via podcast or on your iPod. You can follow me on Twitter @ETFexpert. This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.