New Year, Big Volatility

New Year, Big Volatility

If the first six trading days of 2015 are any harbinger of what’s to come for the entire year, then strap on your seatbelts and get ready for an “A-ticket” rollercoaster ride.

Since the start of the year, there has been BIG volatility in the equity markets, as stocks are getting pulled down and then pushed back up by conflicted traders trying to make sense of it all.

Now, for the past several weeks I’ve been telling my podcast listeners that 2015 is going to be much different than 2014. My suspicion is that this year, we’re going to see a lot more volatility than we did last year, and so far that is panning out.

Forces such as a rising U.S. dollar and plunging oil prices (see accompanying charts), as well as ultra-low bond yields and the omnipresent uncertainty about when the Federal Reserve will start to raise interest rates, have contributed to the push-pull that we’ve seen this year and that we are likely to keep seeing for at least the first half of 2015.

I think a good way for investors to handle this danger is by keeping a lot of their funds in cash in case this market volatility morphs into a markedly across-the-board decline.

If that doesn’t happen, and if stocks shrug off the negatives of falling oil prices, then you can always put that cash to work in targeted exchange-traded funds (ETFs) offering the best risk-reward proposition.


Top 10 Domestic, Top 10 International Dividend ETFs

For the past several years, dividend ETFs have been a blessing for yield-seeking investors. Both domestic and international dividend ETFs offer the prospect of attractive yields along with solid share-price appreciation. But in 2014, it was domestic ETFs that trounced their international brethren in terms of total return.

The two tables below offer a stark contrast between the recent performance of the top 10 domestic income ETFs and the top 10 international dividend ETFs.

Ticker Name 3MO% 2014% Yield% (12M)
RDIV RevenueShares Ultra Dividend 7.37 17.21 3.36
PEY PowerShares HighYield Dividend Achievers 8.43 13.92 3.24
FVD First Trust Value Line Dividend Fund 7.56 12.89 2.46
DON WisdomTree Midcap Dividend Fund 6.98 12.23 2.56
TDIV FT Nasdaq Tech Dividend Index Fund 2.21 12.20 2.80
DHS WisdomTree High-Yielding Equity Fund 3.84 11.72 2.91
DTN WisdomTree Dividend Top 100 Fund 4.50 11.53 3.07
DLN WisdomTree Large Cap Dividend Fund 4.20 11.45 2.34
DTD WisdomTree Total Dividend Fund 4.71 11.37 2.42
DVY iShares Dow Jones Select Dividend Index 7.50 11.28 3.03
Ticker Name 3MO% 2014% Yield% (12M)
GULF WisdomTree Middle East Dividend -15.41 2.10 4.85
AXJL WisdomTree Asia-Pacific EX-J -2.32 (1.82) 3.59
PID PowerShares International Dividend Achievers -5.40 (4.94) 3.92
FDD First Trust DJ STOXX Select Dividend 30 -3.40 (5.57) 4.30
DIM WisdomTree International MidCap Div -1.64 (5.95) 3.46
FGD First Trust DJ Global Select Dividend -4.66 (6.35) 5.18
DGS WisdomTree Emerging Markets Small Cap Div -6.62 (6.36) 3.20
DVYA iShares Asia Pacific Dividend 30 Index Fund -4.25 (8.12) 5.28
DEW WisdomTree Europe High-Yield Fund -5.22 (8.17) 5.00
IQDE FlexShares-Int Qual Dividend Defensive -6.01 (8.30) 4.02

Here we see that all of the domestic funds were firmly in the black last year, and all had double-digit-plus percentage gains. On the other hand, all but one of the most popular international dividend funds dropped last year.

Even though international dividend ETFs offer higher yields than their domestic counterparts, there is no doubt that in 2014 the juice was definitely with domestic dividend ETFs.

But will this trend continue into 2015, or will this be the year these international funds shape up? While nobody knows this answer for certain, what I do think is that at least from a value and bargain perspective, international dividend ETFs look a lot more tempting to buy.

Rushdie on Freedom

“Religion, a medieval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms…”

–Salman Rushdie

This week’s heinous events in Paris remind us that religious extremism mixed with violence is a toxic cocktail that threatens the entire free world. Writer Salman Rushdie has known this ever since the Ayatollah Khomeini put a price on his head for penning a novel. Now, French satirical journalists are the latest victims of this disgraceful extremist attempt to silence free speech. Let’s do our part to make sure this doesn’t happen here. It’s up to all of us to stand up for freedom and free speech, and against religious extremism intent on imposing its will on America. Je suis Charlie!

Wisdom about money, investing and life can be found anywhere. If you have a good quote you’d like me to share with your fellow Weekly ETF Report readers, send it to me, along with any comments, questions and suggestions you have about my audio podcast, newsletters, seminars or anything else. Ask Doug.

In case you missed it, I encourage you to read my e-letter column from last week on Eagle Daily Investor about the top 10 ways to be a better ETF investor in 2015. I also invite you to comment in the space provided below my Eagle Daily Investor commentary.