EFA vs. XLV: What’s The Difference?

The iShares MSCI EAFE ETF (EFA) and the Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLV) are both among the Top 100 ETFs. EFA is a iShares Foreign Large Blend fund and XLV is a SPDR State Street Global Advisors Health fund. So, what’s the difference between EFA and XLV? And which fund is better?

The expense ratio of EFA is 0.20 percentage points higher than XLV’s (0.32% vs. 0.12%). EFA also has a higher exposure to the financial services sector and a higher standard deviation. Overall, EFA has provided lower returns than XLV over the past ten years.

In this article, we’ll compare EFA vs. XLV. We’ll look at performance and risk metrics, as well as at their industry exposure and annual returns. Moreover, I’ll also discuss EFA’s and XLV’s portfolio growth, holdings, and fund composition and examine how these affect their overall returns.

Summary

EFA XLV
Name iShares MSCI EAFE ETF Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund
Category Foreign Large Blend Health
Issuer iShares SPDR State Street Global Advisors
AUM 56.77B 27.88B
Avg. Return 6.47% 15.02%
Div. Yield 2.28% 1.4%
Expense Ratio 0.32% 0.12%

The iShares MSCI EAFE ETF (EFA) is a Foreign Large Blend fund that is issued by iShares. It currently has 56.77B total assets under management and has yielded an average annual return of 6.47% over the past 10 years. The fund has a dividend yield of 2.28% with an expense ratio of 0.32%.

The Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLV) is a Health fund that is issued by SPDR State Street Global Advisors. It currently has 27.88B total assets under management and has yielded an average annual return of 15.02% over the past 10 years. The fund has a dividend yield of 1.4% with an expense ratio of 0.12%.

EFA’s dividend yield is 0.88% higher than that of XLV (2.28% vs. 1.4%). Also, EFA yielded on average 8.55% less per year over the past decade (6.47% vs. 15.02%). The expense ratio of EFA is 0.20 percentage points higher than XLV’s (0.32% vs. 0.12%).

FYI: The best way I've found to invest in ETFs is through M1 Finance. It's free and you even get an instant line of credit! Have a look here (link to M1 Finance).

Fund Composition

Industry Exposure

EFA vs. XLV - Industry Exposure

EFA XLV
Technology 9.68% 0.0%
Industrials 15.01% 0.0%
Energy 3.51% 0.0%
Communication Services 5.68% 0.0%
Utilities 3.35% 0.0%
Healthcare 12.8% 100.0%
Consumer Defensive 10.56% 0.0%
Real Estate 3.01% 0.0%
Financial Services 16.88% 0.0%
Consumer Cyclical 11.62% 0.0%
Basic Materials 7.91% 0.0%

The iShares MSCI EAFE ETF (EFA) has the most exposure to the Financial Services sector at 16.88%. This is followed by Industrials and Healthcare at 15.01% and 12.8% respectively. Utilities (3.35%), Energy (3.51%), and Communication Services (5.68%) only make up 12.54% of the fund’s total assets.

EFA’s mid-section with moderate exposure is comprised of Basic Materials, Technology, Consumer Defensive, Consumer Cyclical, and Healthcare stocks at 7.91%, 9.68%, 10.56%, 11.62%, and 12.8%.

The Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLV) has the most exposure to the Healthcare sector at 100.0%. This is followed by Technology and Industrials at 0.0% and 0.0% respectively. Consumer Cyclical (0.0%), Financial Services (0.0%), and Real Estate (0.0%) only make up 0.00% of the fund’s total assets.

XLV’s mid-section with moderate exposure is comprised of Consumer Defensive, Utilities, Communication Services, Energy, and Industrials stocks at 0.0%, 0.0%, 0.0%, 0.0%, and 0.0%.

EFA is 16.88% more exposed to the Financial Services sector than XLV (16.88% vs 0.0%). EFA’s exposure to Industrials and Healthcare stocks is 15.01% higher and 87.20% lower respectively (15.01% vs. 0.0% and 12.8% vs. 100.0%). In total, Utilities, Energy, and Communication Services also make up 12.54% more of the fund’s holdings compared to XLV (12.54% vs. 0.00%).

Holdings

EFA - Holdings

EFA Holdings Weight
Nestle SA 2.11%
ASML Holding NV 1.69%
Roche Holding AG 1.55%
LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE 1.28%
Novartis AG 1.19%
Toyota Motor Corp 1.09%
AstraZeneca PLC 0.92%
Unilever PLC 0.9%
AIA Group Ltd 0.88%
SAP SE 0.86%

EFA’s Top Holdings are Nestle SA, ASML Holding NV, Roche Holding AG, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, and Novartis AG at 2.11%, 1.69%, 1.55%, 1.28%, and 1.19%.

Toyota Motor Corp (1.09%), AstraZeneca PLC (0.92%), and Unilever PLC (0.9%) have a slightly smaller but still significant weight. AIA Group Ltd and SAP SE are also represented in the EFA’s holdings at 0.88% and 0.86%.

XLV - Holdings

XLV Holdings Weight
Johnson & Johnson 9.19%
UnitedHealth Group Inc 8.01%
Pfizer Inc 4.64%
Abbott Laboratories 4.36%
AbbVie Inc 4.21%
Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc 4.2%
Merck & Co Inc 4.17%
Eli Lilly and Co 3.87%
Danaher Corp 3.61%
Medtronic PLC 3.54%

XLV’s Top Holdings are Johnson & Johnson, UnitedHealth Group Inc, Pfizer Inc, Abbott Laboratories, and AbbVie Inc at 9.19%, 8.01%, 4.64%, 4.36%, and 4.21%.

Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc (4.2%), Merck & Co Inc (4.17%), and Eli Lilly and Co (3.87%) have a slightly smaller but still significant weight. Danaher Corp and Medtronic PLC are also represented in the XLV’s holdings at 3.61% and 3.54%.

NOTE: The easiest way to add diversification to your portfolio is to invest in real estate through Fundrise. You can become private real estate investor without the burden of property management! Check it out here (link to Fundrise).

Risk Analysis

EFA XLV
Mean Return 0.57 1.27
R-squared 96.78 58.19
Std. Deviation 15.01 12.94
Alpha 0.47 7.75
Beta 0.98 0.7
Sharpe Ratio 0.41 1.13
Treynor Ratio 5.33 21.1

The iShares MSCI EAFE ETF (EFA) has a Mean Return of 0.57 with a Treynor Ratio of 5.33 and a Standard Deviation of 15.01. Its Sharpe Ratio is 0.41 while EFA’s Beta is 0.98. Furthermore, the fund has a Alpha of 0.47 and a R-squared of 96.78.

The Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLV) has a Standard Deviation of 12.94 with a Treynor Ratio of 21.1 and a Alpha of 7.75. Its Beta is 0.7 while XLV’s R-squared is 58.19. Furthermore, the fund has a Mean Return of 1.27 and a Sharpe Ratio of 1.13.

EFA’s Mean Return is 0.70 points lower than that of XLV and its R-squared is 38.59 points higher. With a Standard Deviation of 15.01, EFA is slightly more volatile than XLV. The Alpha and Beta of EFA are 7.28 points lower and 0.28 points higher than XLV’s Alpha and Beta.

BTW: Uncorrelated crypto assets such as Bitcoin can serve as a hedge and mitigate risk. I've allocated around 5% of my portfolio to crypto assets through Coinbase - the simplest and cheapest broker I've found! Click here to read more (link to Coinbase).

Performance

Annual Returns

EFA vs. XLV - Annual Returns

Year EFA XLV
2020 7.92% 13.33%
2019 21.94% 20.63%
2018 -13.83% 6.3%
2017 24.94% 21.7%
2016 0.96% -2.83%
2015 -0.9% 6.82%
2014 -5.04% 25.17%
2013 22.62% 41.24%
2012 17.22% 17.56%
2011 -12.18% 12.44%
2010 7.52% 2.91%

EFA had its best year in 2017 with an annual return of 24.94%. EFA’s worst year over the past decade yielded -13.83% and occurred in 2018. In most years the iShares MSCI EAFE ETF provided moderate returns such as in 2016, 2010, and 2020 where annual returns amounted to 0.96%, 7.52%, and 7.92% respectively.

The year 2013 was the strongest year for XLV, returning 41.24% on an annual basis. The poorest year for XLV in the last ten years was 2016, with a yield of -2.83%. Most years the Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund has given investors modest returns, such as in 2011, 2020, and 2012, when gains were 12.44%, 13.33%, and 17.56% respectively.

Portfolio Growth

EFA vs. XLV - Portfolio Growth

Fund Initial Balance Final Balance CAGR
EFA $10,000 $18,269 6.47%
XLV $10,000 $44,147 15.02%

A $10,000 investment in EFA would have resulted in a final balance of $18,269. This is a profit of $8,269 over 11 years and amounts to a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.47%.

With a $10,000 investment in XLV, the end total would have been $44,147. This equates to a $34,147 profit over 11 years and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.02%.

EFA’s CAGR is 8.55 percentage points lower than that of XLV and as a result, would have yielded $25,878 less on a $10,000 investment. Thus, EFA performed worse than XLV by 8.55% annually.


Current recommendations:

Over the past years, I have discovered several tools and products that have helped me tremendously on my path to financial freedom:

P.S.: The links below are affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you when you sign up for one of the services. Thank you for your support!

1) Take a look at M1 Finance, my favorite broker. I love how easy it is to invest and maintain my portfolio with them. I can set up automatic transfers, rebalance my portfolio with one click and even borrow up to 35% of my assets at super low interest rates!

2) Fundrise is by far the best way I've found to invest in Real Estate. You can diversify your portfolio by investing in their eREITs or even allocate capital to individual properties (without the hassle of managing tenants!).

3) If you are interested in crypto, check out Coinbase. I've started allocating a small amount of assets to the growing crypto space and Coinbase has just been a breeze to use. Once you register, make sure to also open an Coinbase Pro account to buy crypto at the lowest fees on the market (just 0.1%!).

To see all of my most up-to-date recommendations, check out the Recommended Tools section.

Leave a Reply