Top ETFs for Income and Long-Term Investors

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Dividends can play an important role for investors who rely upon them for their living requirements. They can also bolster total returns for long-term investors who reinvest the proceeds. If you fall into either camp, it is highly likely that there is an ETF or two that can meet your investment objectives. Here are some top ETFs for income investors to consider for their portfolios.

Focus on Fundamentals

The WisdomTree U.S. Dividend Growth Fund (DGRW) owns companies that pay dividends and have attractive growth prospects. "It's a relatively new ETF that we launched in May," said Jeremy Schwartz, director of research at WisdomTree. "I think it's very timely and apt for the current market environment."

The ETF tracks an index created by WisdomTree which emphasizes fundamentals. "We start with our entire universe of dividend stocks and then we rank them by our growth criteria which is an earnings growth variable and then return on equity and current assets as a quality filter," Schwartz said. "The idea is the more profitable companies have more cash to grow their dividends over time."

For income investors that are focused on value, Schwartz likes the WisdomTree Emerging Markets Equity Income Fund (DEM). "When I look at the overall valuations across all of the markets, it happens to be the cheapest basket of stocks that we have," he said. "Its P/E ratio is under 10 times earnings. If you look at the U.S. markets, they've risen 13 to 14 percent this year. Emerging markets are down 13 to 14 percent this year. They haven't participated fully in the rebound."

Fixed-Income Plays

Income investors looking for a bargains in the ETF arena may want to consider the iShares J.P. Morgan USD Emerging Markets Bond ETF (EMB). "The recent selloff has shown some areas are very vulnerable to higher interest rates while others represent good entry opportunities," said David Vomund, president Vomund Investment Management. "EMB has fallen 11% since its May high and as a result it has an attractive 4.6% yield. Many of its holdings are investment grade and the securities are dollar denominated."

Vomund also likes the PowerShares Senior Loan Portfolio (BKLN). "The security invests in loans made by banks to corporations, most of which are rated below investment grade," he said. "Because the loans float, their interest rate resets on average every few months."

The nature of BKLN can help to minimize the ill effects of interest rate risk. "The rate is tied to LIBOR which is added to the fixed amount of each loan set at origination," Vomund said. "For that reason investors look at bank loan funds as short-term vehicles that do not have the interest rate risk of long-term bonds. The adjustable nature of this security is based on short-term interest rates, which won't rise anytime soon, but in the meantime investors are rewarded with a 4.7% yield."

Superior Yields

One money manager points to the iShares Select Dividend ETF (DVY) as being an ideal play for many dividend investors. "For clients that really need to have income, this is a fine vehicle for them," said Kirk Mentzer, portfolio manager for the Huntington Dividend Capture Fund (HDCAX). "Its yield is quite a bit higher than what the S&P 500 pays. It's also higher than most investment grade bond funds and what you would find in most other equity mutual funds."

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DVY has a yield of 3.4% versus 2.1% from the S&P 500.

Mentzer also likes the PowerShares Preferred Portfolio (PGX). "It's clearly more defensive than the S&P 500," he said. "Because preferred stocks are hybrid securities with one foot in bond land and the other in equities for capital structure, they do offer a considerably better yield."

Shares of PGX currently yield 6.5%.

When seeking an ETF with a healthy dividend yield, investors can benefit from a contrarian approach. "Now is a good time to buy it," Mentzer said of PGX. "The wind has really been taken out of the sales of preferred shares. They were beaten up badly in May and June with the income scourge."

The ETF is down 3.4% year-to-date.

Investors should always keep in mind the risks associated with ETFs including the fact that the majority of ETFs are not actively managed. "By having our Dividend Capture fund actively managed we can adjust the weightings and we can adjust the sector preferences," Mentzer said. "With ETFs you are pretty much married to what they are modeling at the moment. There's not much customization or anticipation of what the environment might be going forward."

--Written by Billy Fisher for MainStreet

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