11/14/2013 8:30 PM ET|
4 ETFs to ride the market's peaks
With the S&P 500 at record highs, how can investors hold onto their gains without missing the potential for more?
When I look at the market landscape I see a lot of recent peaks and an absence of many valleys. That doesn't mean such valleys don't exist; it's just that they're being obscured by all the recent run ups.
But now, with peaks present rather than looming in the distance, the question needs to be asked about whether or not and how one might be able to gain ground from here. Inside that question is nested another one: How do we hold onto the gains we've garnered rather than fall off one peak's precipice or another?
My answer? Well, let me back up a bit.
We have now passed through the portal of enough meaningful earnings reports to see that the trend of slower and lower earnings growth rates, comingled with D.C. and geopolitical fogbound forecasts, makes a soft patch bordering on a quagmire more probable … especially if D.C. doesn't get its partisan act in order and/or if Syria or some other hot spot bubbles over.
We also know that the economic reports (both as scheduled and the delay-released ones), paint a picture of cautious spending from consumers and businesses — but not no spending. We know the jobs recovery is so anemic (in terms of new hires, opt-outs and the types of low-wage hair net and name tag salaries), as to pose the question of whether or not it, too, has peaked. You can ask that question of the most recent driver of optimism; has the housing recovery seen the peak number of new buyers already enter the space?
I think the overall number of buyers may have peaked, but there's room for 5 to 10 percent sales growth year-over-year next year. (Maybe not 5 to 10 percent housing price increases -- but inventory is thin, and that bodes well for owners looking to sell.) We're also seeing more signs of better consumer spending across the pond in Europe and across the ocean in Asia. Here at home, big-box retailers may be ailing a bit -- but online sales appear poised to surge in the compressed holiday period that's coming down the pike.
You can be a piker in terms of making a small contrarian bet on the consumer not folding. See my column last month for my recommendation that you do so -- and how.
Here and now, you can throw in a monkey wrench like Obamacare, which, owning to inarguably the worst product launch since the Edsel, is being viewed as very bad news for our president. But that view is mainly politics and rhetoric. Not only is it likely that Obamacare will find its way through its self-imposed current crisis, but near-term, it could force the president to be more willing to compromise.
Still, even if political low points improve, the question of peaks remains.
As I recently noted in my Fidelity Investor newsletter and on CNBC, relative to past highs, the markets don't just look toppy, they are. But trying to impose past peaks as a litmus test for future ones is a fool's errand – markets have a history of being driven higher by improving fundamentals more so than being constrained by past peaks . . . how else could we be where we find ourselves today at more than twice the gain since Greenspan coined the phrase "irrational exuberance" over a Dow that stood at 6,400?
Yet, as I have been noting year-long, in a stock picker's market you don't want to buy the peaks, you want to buy the best routes to them -- more narrowly drawn or concentrated selections make more sense than buying any index fund or ETF that mirrors the broad market averages' peaks.
My November picks
Powershares Dynamic Networking (PXQ) encompasses the grid of what online sellers and wired (and wireless) buyers need to proceed. Ruckus (RKUS), Citrix (CTXS), Cisco (CSCO), Qualcomm (QCOM) and Juniper Networks (JNPR) are all in this actively managed "intellidex," which provides room for reason and review rather than mimicking an index that is immutable. In fast growing sectors of the marketplace, nimble and quick is better than being forced to stand still.
I like health care writ large, but a core driver of returns this year has been biotech. It looks less vulnerable to price wars and health care commoditization, while maturing rapidly into deliverables across a wide and necessary spectrum of ailments and consumers. For November, it has the added benefit of being basically immune to any ongoing or worsening issues attending Obamacare.
My pick: iShares Biotech (IBB) combined with Fidelity Select Biotech (FBIOX). Their top 10 holdings are nearly a perfect match -- BioMarin (BMRN), Alexion (ALXN), Gilead (GILD), Biogen (BIIB), Celgene (CELG), Amgen (AMGN) Regeneron (REGN), Vertex (VRTX) -- but their weightings in each are distinctly different.
The distinct holdings for IBB are Illumina (ILMN) and Mylan (MYL). For FBIOX they're Pharmacyclis (PCYC) and Aegerion (AEGR). IBB has returned around 53 percent year-to-date, FBIOX around 60 percent. I'd have two-thirds of my position in the actively managed FBIOX and one-third in the passive IBB ETF. Overall, I'd suggest about a 5 percent stake.
And for a brand-new, commission-free, low-cost ETF to cover this holiday spending spree, Fidelity MSCI Consumer Discretionary Index (FDIS) is a buy. It's based on the MSCI USA IMI Consumer Discretionary Index, which is made up of the consumer discretionary portion of the MSCI US Investable Market 2500 Index (which in turn is a combination of the MSCI US Large Cap 300, Mid Cap 450 and Small Cap 1750 Indices all rolled into one).
Go for it.
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