As we continue to press on into the second quarter of the year, issuer activity in the exchange-traded fund (ETF) space continues to be brisk. As expected, most of the new offerings in the space have been smart-beta or fundamental indexed-focused. As investors have clamored for more products that deliver better than average returns, Wall Street has delivered.
This week’s round of new funds hitting the tape was no exception.
ETF powerhouses BlackRock (BLK) and WisdomTree (WETF) unveiled a suite of new funds applying fundamental and alternative indexing to both global stocks and bonds.
iShares Gets Social
Increasingly, investors have tried to position their portfolios in line with their political, social, and religious values. So-called socially responsible, or ESG, investing has quickly become one of the hottest categories of new fund launches. And that’s not just in the ETF space.
iShares already has two of the largest and most successful socially responsible funds under its belt: the iShares MSCI KLD 400 Social ETF (DSI ) and the iShares MSCI USA ESG Select ETF (KLD ). However, those two products focus solely on U.S. stocks meeting various social metrics. To plug the gap in its line up, the ETF sponsor launched the iShares Sustainable MSCI Global Impact ETF (MPCT ) on April 20.
MPCT will comb through the broader MSCI All-Country World Index (ACWI) to find those firms that meet various socially conscious practices as well as offer products and services that may drive positive change. The underlying concept of what that entails was developed by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. So it has some real weight behind it.
That “All-Country” moniker is also the key as MPCT will include developed- and emerging-market stocks from a total of 23 nations. This provides investors a chance to bet on stocks doing good outside of the U.S. While the underlying focus is slightly different than KLD or DSI, many of the U.S. stocks in these indexes fall within MPCT’s holdings as well. All in all, the new fund makes it easy for investors to bet globally on socially responsible investments.
Expenses for MPCT run at 0.49%, or $49 per $10,000 invested.
WisdomTree Gets Fundamental With Bonds
One of the real reasons that smart-beta was first created is that the traditional market-cap indexing of stocks has a ton of problems. When it comes to bond indexes, there are actually more and potentially worse issues. For example, most bond indexes are weighted by the amount of debt issued. If a firm has more debt outstanding, it usually has a higher place in an index. Despite this, smart-beta bond ETFs pretty much don’t exist.
WisdomTree hopes to fix that with a quartet of ETF launches this past April 27.
The WisdomTree Fundamental U.S. Corporate Bond Fund (WFIG ), WisdomTree Fundamental U.S. Short-Term Corporate Bond Fund (SFIG ), WisdomTree Fundamental U.S. High Yield Corporate Bond Fund (WFHY ) and the WisdomTree Fundamental U.S. Short-Term High Yield Corporate Bond Fund (SFHY ) will all take the smart-beta approach to bonds.
The funds will use a multistep process to screen for U.S. bonds that have an attractive combination of income and fundamental metrics. Those include credit quality, underlying cash flows supporting the bonds, issuer business health, etc. What you get is a portfolio of bonds that are quality relative to their values and coupon rates.
Both WFIG and SFIG will bet on investment-grade corporate bonds. SFIG will feature those corporates on the shorter end of the duration ladder of less than five years. WFIG will focus on more traditional intermediate-term corporate bonds in the seven- to 10-year range.
As expected, both SFHY and WFHY will follow a similar duration pattern of short and intermediate term, respectively. However, this duo will focus on high-yield and junk bonds from the United States. These funds could be of great use to investors as the lesser credit quality of these bonds can mean higher default rates. By eliminating the bad bonds, SFHY and WFHY should be able to provide high dividends while reducing risk.
Both WFIG and SFIG charge a rock bottom 0.18% in expenses, while SFHY and WFHY charge a cheap 0.38%.