Advisors are faced with a large universe of ETFs that slice and dice the markets in what are often unusual ways. That universe shows no signs of contracting as more than 1,300 ETFs are currently in registration.

However, not all of them will come public in 2016; in fact many will never see the light of day.

Among the potential ETF products being considered for market are dozens that are dividend oriented. Several, including offerings from Columbia Management (Columbia Dividend Income) and Eaton Vance (Eaton Vance Global Dividend Income ETMF), will feature active management. As with traditional mutual funds, advisors will have to decide if managers can add value, or simply add cost.

Even when an ETF is based on an index, that's no guarantee that you will know all the rules for a stock's inclusion.

For example, ETF Series Solutions plans to launch the Zacks Sustainable Dividend ETF, which starts with a list of the 1,500 largest U.S. dividend payers. As the prospectus notes: "The universe is then narrowed and ranked using a proprietary, quantitative rules-based methodology developed by Zacks Investment Research, Inc."

If you don't want active management or a fund based on a "secret sauce" index, there are still dozens of dividend-oriented ETFs that could come to market in the months ahead.

Here are four worth a closer look when they arrive:

  • BlackRock is expected to launch the iShares MSCI USA High Dividend Yield Index Fund. The underlying index is weighted by market capitalization and component stocks must have yields at least 30% higher than the yield of the MSCI USA Index at the time of inclusion. What makes this fund interesting is that there is a dividend-growth factor married to the higher yield requirement: To be eligible for the index, a stock must have five-year non-negative per-share dividend growth.
  • Guggenheim Funds plans to offer an ETF that weights the Dow Jones Industrial Average by yield. It will feature the same stocks as the traditional Dow (they all pay dividends), but the Dow Jones Industrial Average Dividend ETF will avoid the regular benchmark's price weighting. That means the largest position in the dividend version will be Verizon Communications. Goldman Sachs is the biggest stock in the regular Dow.

The downside: It's still only 30 stocks.

  • The ProShares MSCI Emerging Markets Dividend Masters ETF is designed to temper some of the customary swings in EM by requiring index members to have at least seven consecutive years of dividend increases. The fund will hold a minimum of 40 stocks that will be equally weighted. Sector and country caps are imposed. If there are fewer than 40 stocks when caps are in place, the fund will include issues with shorter dividend growth histories.
  • The SPDR S&P Global Dividend ETF will be based on the S&P Global Dividend Aristocrats Index. That benchmark includes stocks in the S&P Global Broad Market Index that have had increasing or stable dividends for at least 10 years. The Aristocrats must also have a float-adjusted market cap of at least $1 billion, average daily trading volume of $5 million, and must pay out less than earnings. In addition, no stock yielding more than 10% is included. The portfolio will include 100 stocks and there are caps to guard against country and sector concentration.

Why give these and similar potential funds consideration? Advisors can look at it at as prep work for knowing which funds may rise above the competition. Back in the 1980s, a regional brokerage firm issued an annual list of favored stocks. What made the list unique was that all of the companies were domiciled in states near the brokerage firm's headquarters.
Was that astute investing or just a marketing gimmick? That's where the research back then could have paid off.

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