Beware These Accidental High-Yielding ETFs


Maybe he coined the phrase, maybe he did not. But Jim Cramer does deserve credit for, at the very least, popularizing the term "accidental high-yielder." We do not want to put words in Cramer's mouth, but an educated guess is that when he says "accidental high-yielder," it is in reference to a good company that has seen its shares beaten up to the point that the dividend yield is, well, accidentally high.

When it comes to ETFs, finding fair to decent yields is not difficult. Actually, the universe of dividend ETFs is rapidly expanding.

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The trick is not being seduced by, in some cases, outrageously high yields on some ETFs. These yields are high for a reason(s), most of which are rarely positive. Consider the following trio.

Guggenheim Solar ETF (NYSE:TAN) The Guggenheim Solar ETF is the most interesting case of a high-yielding ETF, at least it is the most interesting for us ETF nerds. Look at several different sources and all will show an absurdly high dividend yield for an ETF tracking a sector that usually is not a prime income destination. Yahoo Finance says TAN's trailing 12-month yield is almost 8.9 percent. Finviz says its 8.73 percent.

Whatever the case may be, those robust numbers are attached to an ETF where the largest holding, First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) accounts for 18.2 percent of the fund's weight, but does not pay a dividend. Most solar stocks do not pay dividends.

A recent report by Index Universe reveals the mystery behind TAN's high yield. Long story short, TAN's issuers loan shares of the ETF's components out, collecting a fee in the process. If those shares happen to be in high demand by short sellers, as many of TAN's holdings are, the fee can be higher and TAN's investors reap the rewards.

Market Vectors Egypt Index ETF (NYSE:EGPT) If an investor knew nothing of Egypt's two-year-plus run of intense geopolitical instability and just happened to go to the Market Vector's web page, EGPT's yield could be quite the temptress. It is now 14.2 percent on a 30-day SEC basis, according to issuer data.

It is debatable how accidental this high yield really is. Debatable because there are easily identifiable reasons why the lone Egypt ETF is down over 16 percent in the past month. Before anyone reading this piece gets tempted by EGPT's yield, remember that Egypt could lose its emerging markets status and that the ETF is trading at levels that are worse than at any point during the Arab Spring.

Global X Brazil Financials ETF (NYSE:BRAF) Not to pick on the Global X Brazil Financials ETF, but this is how bad the fund has been in the past month: BRAF's 14.47 percent drop is nearly 90 basis points worse than that of the iShares MSCI Brazil Index Fund (NYSE:EWZ).

BRAF's three largest holdings account for 30 percent of the fund's weight and the average one-month decline for that trio is "just" 10 percent. The ETF's trailing 12-month yield of 3.67 percent (per Yahoo data) is also well in excess of any of those top-three holdings, which are comprised of Banco Santander Brasil (NYSE:BSBR), Banco Bradesco (NYSE:BBD) and Itau Unibanco (NYSE:ITUB).

Brazil may still offer long-term promise, but the yield on this ETF can certainly grow in the near-term.

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