Analyse: SPDR S&P US Dividend Aristocrats ETF (USD)

Aktien-ETF setzt auf die 60 größten und konstantesten Dividendenzahler aus dem S&P 500.

Alastair Kellett 02.03.2012
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Rolle im Portfolio

The SPDR S&P US Dividend Aristocrats ETF (USD) provides exposure to a subset of the U.S. equity market focusing on companies that have been consistent in paying out dividends to their shareholders. It is broadly diversified by sector, with none accounting for more than 20% of the total, and at the individual security level, with holdings limited to 4% each. The focus on companies that pay out earnings rather than reinvesting them tends to tilt the index away from growth names. Indeed, the fund lands in the Core-Value area of the Morningstar Style Box.

Since 2000, the S&P High Yield Dividend Aristocrats Index, which is the benchmark for this fund, has experienced annual volatility of 15.55%, a little less than the broader S&P 500. That suggests investors should have a lengthy time horizon in mind when taking on this exposure, so that they can withstand the ups and downs. During the same period it has shown a correlation to the S&P 500 of 76%, and to the local-currency returns of the MSCI World Index of 70%.

This fund, which pays out quarterly dividends received from its underlying constituents, could be suitable for investors looking for regular income while maintaining exposure to equities.

Fundamentale Analyse

The U.S. economy continues to muddle through on the path to recovery, and indeed is showing some encouraging signs, with GDP having risen by an annualised rate of 2.8% for the fourth quarter of 2011, after 1.8% growth in the third quarter. Nonfarm employment rose by an impressive 243,000 in January, and the unemployment rate, while still high at 8.3%, seems to be trending downwards.

Historically, spending by the U.S. consumer has been a key driver of growth domestically and around the globe, importing a host of finished goods from China and other growing markets. But after the implosion of the residential housing bubble, recession followed by a largely jobless recovery, and reluctance of banks to make loans, the average household doesn’t have the spending clout it once did. That situation, along with increased government austerity, could limit the country’s potential for growth, even as corporate balance sheets and profitability appear healthy.

Political deadlock has also heightened uncertainty over the U.S.’s prospects, prompting Standard & Poor’s to downgrade its federal debt in August 2011. Nonetheless, an even bleaker situation in Europe has helped the U.S. to maintain its safe haven status among investors, allowing the government to continue to borrow on the cheap. The Federal Reserve has maintained an accommodative monetary policy through a combination of quantitative easing and low short term interest rates signalled to persist for the foreseeable future.

While many investors dream about the thrill of capital gains on the shares they own, through history much of the total return from equities has come in the form of dividends. A policy of paying out earnings on a regular basis forces discipline on corporate management, lowering the odds of destructive acquisitions. And dividends give investors a ‘bird in the hand,’ rather than just the promise of enhanced enterprise value at an unidentified point in the future.


The S&P High Yield Dividend Aristocrats Index is weighted by dividend yield, calculated by taking the total dividend payment from the previous 12 months and dividing it by the stock price on the calculation date. The weighting of any one stock is capped at 4% at the time of the quarterly rebalancing. The index contains 60 stocks selected from the universe of securities within the S&P 1500, and employs screens to ensure minimum size and trading volume. Rather than focusing only on the highest yielding stocks, the index seeks those with a record of consistency of dividend growth. To be considered for the index, companies must have increased their dividend for at least 25 consecutive years. If that screen produces fewer than 80 stocks, the stocks with the longest period of increasing dividends are used. A committee maintains the index, rebalancing quarterly and making changes as needed. If a constituent falls out of line with any of the index’s entrance criteria, the committee can use its discretion to keep it in the index if the change is deemed temporary. This limits portfolio turnover. The index is broadly diversified by industry. At December 31, 2011, the top sector weights were Financials at 19.2%, Consumer Staples at 18.7%, Industrials at 13.9%, Consumer Discretionary and Utilities at 11.3% each, and Materials at 10.8%. Top individual holdings are Pitney Bowes, AT&T Inc., and Cincinnati Financial Corporation, at respective weights of 3.90%, 3.42%, and 3.08%.


The fund uses full physical replication to try to capture the performance of its benchmark, owning – to the extent possible and efficient – shares in all of the underlying constituents in the same weights as those of the index. In certain circumstances it may also use derivatives to achieve its objectives. The fund is Irish-domiciled and has the U.S. dollar as its base currency. At the time of writing the fund had assets of $361 million. Cash received as dividends from the underlying stocks is held by the fund until distributions are made to fund unitholders on a quarterly basis. This can create a cash drag on the portfolio, causing it to underperform its benchmark in rising markets, and outperform in declining markets. Generally, SPDR does engage in securities lending, with 50% of the associated revenues passed on to fund unitholders. State Street Bank & Trust is engaged as securities lending agent, which indemnifies the ETFs in the event of a borrower default.


The fund’s total expense ratio (TER) is 0.35%. Other costs potentially borne by the unitholder but not included in the total expense ratio include bid-ask spreads on the ETF, securities lending fees, transaction costs on the infrequent occasions when the underlying holdings change, and brokerage fees when buy and sell orders are placed for ETF shares.


To get exposure to the U.S. Equity Large Cap Value category, there are a few choices, albeit referencing different underlying indexes. Possible alternatives include iShares DJ US Select Dividend, Lyxor ETF Russell 1000 Value, and PowerShares FTSE RAFI US 1000 Fund. Of these, the SPDR fund is the largest. The fund with the lowest expense ratio is the iShares product, with a TER of 0.32%.

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Über den Autor

Alastair Kellett  Al Kellett is an ETF analyst with Morningstar Europe.