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Is iShares International Small (ISCF) a Strong ETF Right Now?

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Making its debut on 04/28/2015, smart beta exchange traded fund iShares International Small (ISCF - Free Report) provides investors broad exposure to the World ETFs category of the market.

What Are Smart Beta ETFs?

Products that are based on market cap weighted indexes, which are strategies designed to reflect a specific market segment or the market as a whole, have traditionally dominated the ETF industry.

Investors who believe in market efficiency should consider market cap indexes, as they replicate market returns in a low-cost, convenient, and transparent way.

There are some investors, though, who think it's possible to beat the market with great stock selection; this group likely invests in another class of funds known as smart beta, which track non-cap weighted strategies.

This kind of index follows this same mindset, as it attempts to pick stocks that have better chances of risk-return performance; non-cap weighted strategies base selection on certain fundamental characteristics, or a mix of such characteristics.

This area offers many different investment choices, such as simplest equal-weighting, fundamental weighting and volatility/momentum based weighting methodologies; however, not all of these strategies can deliver superior results.

Fund Sponsor & Index

The fund is sponsored by Blackrock. It has amassed assets over $583.81 million, making it one of the larger ETFs in the World ETFs. Before fees and expenses, ISCF seeks to match the performance of the MSCI World exUSA Small Cap Diversified Multiple-Factor Index.

The MSCI World exUSA Small Cap Diversified Multiple-Factor Index is designed to select equity securities from MSCI World ex USA Small Cap Index that have high exposure to four investment style factors: value, quality, momentum and low size.

Cost & Other Expenses

Investors should also pay attention to an ETF's expense ratio. Lower cost products will produce better results than those with a higher cost, assuming all other metrics remain the same.

Operating expenses on an annual basis are 0.23% for this ETF, which makes it one of the least expensive products in the space.

The fund has a 12-month trailing dividend yield of 2.82%.

Sector Exposure and Top Holdings

Even though ETFs offer diversified exposure which minimizes single stock risk, it is still important to look into a fund's holdings before investing. Luckily, most ETFs are very transparent products that disclose their holdings on a daily basis.

Looking at individual holdings, Bank Of Ireland Group Plc (BIRG) accounts for about 0.59% of total assets, followed by Ct Reit Units Trust (CRT.UN) and Logitech International Sa (LOGN - Free Report) .

The top 10 holdings account for about 5.27% of total assets under management.

Performance and Risk

The ETF has added about 2.61% and is up roughly 11.36% so far this year and in the past one year (as of 09/21/2023), respectively. ISCF has traded between $25.80 and $32.33 during this last 52-week period.

The fund has a beta of 0.96 and standard deviation of 17.23% for the trailing three-year period, which makes ISCF a medium risk choice in this particular space. With about 1043 holdings, it effectively diversifies company-specific risk.


IShares International Small is a reasonable option for investors seeking to outperform the World ETFs segment of the market. However, there are other ETFs in the space which investors could consider.

Vanguard Total International Stock ETF (VXUS - Free Report) tracks FTSE Global All Cap ex US Index and the Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets ETF (VEA - Free Report) tracks FTSE Developed All Cap ex US Index. Vanguard Total International Stock ETF has $57.50 billion in assets, Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets ETF has $112.10 billion. VXUS has an expense ratio of 0.07% and VEA charges 0.05%.

Investors looking for cheaper and lower-risk options should consider traditional market cap weighted ETFs that aim to match the returns of the World ETFs.

Bottom Line

To learn more about this product and other ETFs, screen for products that match your investment objectives and read articles on latest developments in the ETF investing universe, please visit Zacks ETF Center.

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