Maybe you're looking at our unsettled and uncertain economy, thinking it might be smart to have a bunch of international securities in your portfolio. That's not unreasonable -- after all, many foreign economies are growing more briskly than ours these days. According to my Foolish colleague Tim Hanson, "The economies of Argentina, Belarus, Belize, China, the Czech Republic, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, the Philippines, and Russia are all growing faster than that of the United States."
Maybe you're wishing you had some hefty dividend payers in your portfolio, too. As Fool Shannon Zimmerman has explained, "Between January 1926 and December 2006, 41% of the S&P 500's total return was due not to the price appreciation of the stocks in the index, but to the dividends its companies paid out."
Our friends at State Street have just given us a way to invest in both international and dividend-paying companies in one fell swoop -- via their new SPDR S&P International Dividend
So what exactly do you get with this new ETF? Well, like the typical ETF, it tracks an existing index of companies -- in this case, the S&P International Dividend Opportunities Index, in which you'll find 100 stocks from around the world that offer significant dividend yields. The S&P recently launched the index, along with the S&P Global Dividend Opportunities Index. (The "global" one includes U.S. stocks, while the "international" one excludes them.)
Over the past five years, the international index averaged a 31.8% annual return, which is not too shabby, considering that the S&P 500's annual return for the last five years is around 10%. The international index includes representation of stocks from both developed and emerging markets, though emerging markets play a small role, at roughly 10%. The United Kingdom makes up about a quarter of the holdings, with Canada making up 17%, and Australia more than 10%.
Of course, these S&P indexes are not the only games in town. Check out the also relatively new PowerShares International Dividend Achievers
Invest with guidance
Of course, you have still more options. You could, for example, invest in some carefully selected individual stocks on your own. These might include hefty U.S.-based dividend payers and promising international offerings. You don't need to focus on securities that offer both dividends and international presence in one package.
Remember also that many American companies, such as McDonald's and ExxonMobil, generate much of their revenue abroad, so you can essentially invest internationally through such U.S. enterprises.
If you would appreciate some leads as you look for winners for your portfolio, I invite you to take advantage of trial subscriptions of two of our newsletters -- Motley Fool Global Gains and Motley Fool Income Investor, which offer, respectively, detailed foreign and dividend-based recommendations each month. Last time I checked, the Global Gains recommendations were beating the market by 14 percentage points, while the average Income Investor pick was beating it by seven points.
Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. Nam Tai Electronics is a Motley Fool Global Gains recommendation. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.