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ETFs take to socially responsible investing

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We know ETFs have gotten a bit over-specialized, but here’s one area we won’t quibble with. The Wall Street Journal reports on the launch of two faith-based ETFs.

“On Tuesday, two such ETFs launched–FaithShares Baptist Values (trading symbol: FZB) and Lutheran Values (FKL) funds. Each ETF, managed by FaithShares Advisors LLC, is tailored to each denomination’s specific doctrines and investing guidelines. This follows last week’s debut of FaithShares Catholic Values Fund (FCV) and Methodist Values (FMV) and Christian Values (FOC) funds.”

According to the paper, while larger investors can give millions to a money-manager and ask that it be managed in accordance with their beliefs, smaller investors have few ways to do that, said Thompson Phillips Jr., president of FaithShares.

“While several traditional mutual-fund families have faith-based offerings, Scott Burns, director of ETF analysis at investment-research firm Morningstar, said he is aware of only one religious-themed ETF: Dow Jones Islamic Market International Index Fund (JVS), offered by Javelin Exchange Traded Shares. That fund, launched in July, seeks investments consistent with Sharia, a body of Islamic religious laws, and has about $14.8 million in assets. It is up about 17% since it started, slightly behind the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index.”

The Journal notes FaithShares Catholic Values Fund carries total annual operating expenses of 0.87 percent.

“That is higher than the average ETF, ‘but still quite a bit less’ than faith-based mutual funds, said Mr. Phillips. The expenses will decrease as the funds’ assets increase, he said.

“David Kathman, a Morningstar fund analyst, said that with faith-based or socially responsible funds in general, investors ‘usually have to pay up a little bit for owning something that’s screened according to their values.’”


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