International Developed Markets ETFs: Beyond MSCI EAFE

by: Tom Lydon

International ETFs are one way to diversify a portfolio of U.S. stocks. Most investors gravitate to ETFs tracking the MSCI EAFE Index, the well-established benchmark for international developed markets.

However, there are many ways to carve up non-U.S. stocks that are worthy of consideration.

When it comes to developed foreign market exposure, most investors turn to the third largest U.S.-listed ETF, the iShares MSCI EAFE Index Fund ETF (NYSEARCA:EFA), with $36.5 billion in assets. The ETFs almost fully replicates the MSCI Europe, Australasia and Far East Index, which holds large- and mid-cap companies listed in developed Asian and European markets. EFA has a 0.34% expense ratio, 925 holdings and a 3.33% yield.

EFA's sector allocations include financials 23.2%, industrials 12.4%, consumer staples 11.8%, consumer discretionary 10.3%, health care 10.0%, materials 9.5%, energy 8.4%, telecom 5.4%, information tech. 4.2%, and utilities 4.0%. Country allocations include U.K. 22.7%, Japan 19.7%, France 9.0%, Switzerland, 8.8%, Australia 8.7%, , Germany 8.5%, Sweden 3.2%, Spain 3.0%, Netherlands 2.8%, and Hong Kong 2.8%.

The MSCI EAFE Index is heavily tilted toward the United Kingdom and Japan economies and the financials sector.

Vanguard Europe Pacific EAFE (NYSEARCA:VEA) tracks the same index and has nearly $10 billion in assets.

Other options

Alternatively, the Guggenheim MSCI EAFE Equal Weight ETF (NYSEARCA:EWEF) holds the same stocks as the MSCI EAFE Index but equal weights them, which will provide a greater emphasis on mid-cap stocks. EWEF has a 0.56% expense ratio, 794 holdings and a 2.83% yield.

EWEF's sector allocations include financials 23.0%, industrials 19.4%, consumer discretionary 13.7%, materials 10.8%, consumer staples 7.1%, info tech 6.6%, health care 6.5%, utilities 4.7%, energy 4.2%, and telecom services. Country allocations include Japan 32.2%, U.K. 12.6%, France 8.1%, Australia 8.0%, Germany 5.8%, Sweden 4.1%, Switzerland 4.0%, Hong Kong 3.5%, Singapore 3.3%, Italy 3.0%, Netherlands 2.9%, and Spain 2.8%.

Additionally, the DBX MSCI EAFE Currency-Hedged Equity Fund ETF (NYSEARCA:DBEF) follows the MSCI EAFE U.S. Dollar Hedged Index, which provides exposure to the same pool of stocks but limits the risks a depreciating foreign currency may have on the fund. However, the ETF will not benefit if foreign currencies appreciate. DBEF has a 0.36% expense ratio,

Sector allocations include basic materials 8.8%, consumer discretionary 9.9%, financials 18.7%, real estate 3.4%, telecom 5.7%, energy 8.5%, industrials 14.1%, tech 4.5%, consumer staples 12.3%, healthcare 10.3%, and utilities 4.0%. Again, the U.K. and Japan are the top country allocations at 20%, developed European countries make up 42.4%, and Australasia is 10.8%.

The ESG Shares Pax MSCI EAFE ESG Index ETF (NYSEARCA:EAPS) tries to reflect the Pax MSCI EEAFE ESG Index, which focuses on the developed Asian and European securities that have high sustainability and meet specific environmental, social and governance, or "ESG," standards. The ETF has a 0.55% expense ratio, 143 holdings and a 2.44% yield.

Sector allocations include financials 26.7%, consumer discretionary 12.8%, health care 12.0%, consumer staples 11.6%, industrials 11.6%, materials 7.0%, telecoms services 6.2%, energy 6.1%, information tech 3.8%, and utilities 2.0%. Country allocations include U.K. 24.4%, Japan 22.5%, Australia 9.8%, Switzerland 8.2%, France 7.9%, Spain 5.2%, Germany 5.1%, Sweden 4.9%, Netherlands 2.8%, Belgium 2.1%, Denmark 2.1%, and Italy 1.4%.

The iShares MSCI EAFE Minimum Volatility Index Fund ETF (BATS:EFAV) tries to reflect the performance of the MSCI EAFE Minimum Volatility Index, which is comprised of stocks that exhibit lower volatility swings. The fund has a 0.20% expense ratio, 172 holdings and a 6.7% 30-day SEC yield.

EFAV's sector allocations include financials 17.6%, consumer staples 17.1%, health care 13.8%, industrials 12.1%, telecom 10.3%, consumer discretionary 9.1%, utilities 8.9%, materials 4.8%, energy 3.5%, and information technology 2.4%. Country allocations include U.K. 27.9%, Japan 27.2%, Switzerland 11.4%, Hong Kong 8.2%, Singapore 5.5%, France 4.1%, Australia 3.8%, Germany 3.1%, Israel 1.7%, and Netherlands 1.7%.

Max Chen contributed to this article.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.