Is This High-Yielding ETF Right For Your Portfolio?

The Global X SuperDividend ETF pairs high yields with low risk in a handpicked component roster. Can this income-focused fund beat the Dow in the long run?

Jul 9, 2014 at 2:00PM

All 30 of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) components pay a dividend nowadays. The Dow's average yield is 2.6%, while the median yield sits at 2.7%. Due to oddities with the Dow's price-weighted nature, exchange-traded funds that seek to mirror the Dow yield a bit less at just 2.1%.

Tracking the Dow is one simple way to start a dividend portfolio, or to add a solid income component to your diversified holdings. But what if you want a more generous basket of dividend payers? Something actually designed to produce high yields, without pinning your returns on a single stock?

In that case, you might be interested in something like the Global X SuperDividend U.S. ETF (NYSEMKT:SDIV).

How does the SuperDividend ETF stack up against the Dow?
Income investors may drool over SuperDividend's juicy 5.4% dividend yield, paid out in monthly portions rather than the quarterly schedule that many high-yielding stocks follow.

The fund loses some of its luster when you also consider the straight-up price returns. Since SuperDividend's inception in March 2013, the ETF has consistently trailed the Dow:

DIA Chart

DIA data by YCharts.

However, that analysis kind of misses the point of owning a dividend-focused investment vehicle, right? Here's how SuperDividend matches up against the Dow when dividend returns are included:

DIA Total Return Price Chart

DIA Total Return Price data by YCharts.

Much better. With dividends invested along the way, Global X SuperDividend comes out on top with a 23.4% 15-month return versus the Dow's 19.8% total return.

And you can see the payouts adding up already. The farther away from this ETF's inception we get, the bigger the gap will grow between plain fund returns and dividend-boosted total returns.

DIV Chart

DIV data by YCharts.

The fund is designed to match the Indxx SuperDividend U.S. Low Volatility Index. That's a boutique index in which high yields are matched up with low volatility, as measured by Beta values.

The index and fund actually deliver on these promises.

Beta values among the 50 handpicked components range from 0.1 to 1.2. As a reminder, a 1.0 Beta would be about as volatile as the S&P 500 index. Higher values indicate more risk and volatility; lower scores do the opposite. Negative Beta stocks are kind of odd since they tend to move in the opposite direction, but none of these tickers march under that strange banner. That 1.2 is not an outrageous value here, and most of these stocks cluster far below the 1.0 mark.

As for dividend yields, SuperDividend components range from 2.8% to a stunning 14.4%, with a median value of 4.6%. With component yields like these, in which the average stock nearly matches the Dow's highest yields, it's no wonder to see SuperDividend living up to its name.

Given the fund's focus on low volatility, you should expect plenty of large-cap stocks here. The average market cap is an impressive $31.3 billion, and you'll find four megacap Dow stocks on top of that list.

So there's some common ground between this fund and index and the Dow, but ranking at the top of the Dow's dividend list is not always enough to earn a seat on the SuperDividend list.

General Electric (NYSE:GE) isn't included in the ETF, for example, despite offering the fourth-largest yield on the Dow today at 3.3%. General Electric is a fine income stock in its own right, but it doesn't meet the strict guidelines of this fund's underlying index.

GE was shown the door because it also comes with a 1.5 Beta value. On the other hand, fellow Dow component Merck (NYSE:MRK) only provides a 3% yield but matches it to a very low Beta value of 0.4. So Merck makes the list but General Electric doesn't, even if GE's yield is higher.

Finally, the fund comes with a reasonable 0.45% management fee. Some high-yielding stocks and funds charge management fees three or four times that size, although the most popular Dow tracker carries an even smaller 0.17% fee load. So Global X SuperDividend comes with a reasonable fee schedule -- not an outstanding one.

This high-yielding ETF has a lot of good qualities. This index goes the extra mile, bypassing simple high-yielders to account for risk and quality as well. Income investors could do a lot worse than taking a chance on this ETF. It seems destined to beat the Dow in the long run, on a dividend-adjusted basis.

And that's where our final plot twist comes in.

I see dead people!
OK, nothing quite that dramatic. Did you catch the bits about Global X SuperDividend's short market history?

The fund was initiated just 15 months ago and doesn't have a track record to speak of. You can't look back on decades of proven performance or a long history of low-cost fund management. The Indxx SuperDividend index has only been around since 2008, and the index manager itself was only founded in 2005.

The fund, the index, and the index managers who make the magic happen all come with short operating histories. All need to earn the trust of long-term investors, and it's not blindingly clear that they have done so quite yet.

All things considered, this high-yielding fund may still be worth a bite if you can live with its short operating history. The Dow certainly can't match SuperDividend's generous yields, though it tends to beat the pants off the fund's straight-up price returns.

Top dividend stocks for the next decade
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Anders Bylund has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of General Electric Company. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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