5 ETFs to watch this week

Rising food prices have propelled funds that hold agriculture-related stocks.

By TheStreet Staff Jan 10, 2011 11:01AM

TheStreetTools for your stock portfolio © CorbisBy Don Dion, TheStreet


Here are five ETFs to watch this week.


1. Market Vectors Agribusiness ETF (MOO)

Food prices have surged in recent months, returning to record levels last seen in 2008. This rally has helped power agriculture-related equities such as those underlying MOO to strong gains.


Last week, industry leaders Mosaic (MOS) and Monsanto (MON) reported strong earnings, sending the fund higher toward levels last seen before the economic meltdown.


Improving economic conditions in the developed world and rampant economic growth across emerging economies look likely to prolong this current food rally. MOO is a fund to keep on the radar.

2. iShares Dow Jones U.S. Aerospace & Defense Index Fund (ITA)

Late last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced a plan to squeeze spending by $78 billion over the next five years. The reductions could send investors holding ITA down a rocky road in the coming weeks as the markets learn more about the plan and digest its effects.


According to the Financial Times, plans aimed at paring back the Pentagon's spending habits would result in projects involving companies including General Dynamics (GD), Raytheon (RTN) and Lockheed Martin (LMT) getting the ax. All three can be found among ITA's top 10 holdings and represent more than 17% of the fund's total index.


3. iShares MSCI Belgium Investable Market Index Fund (EWK)

It's a new year, but many of the same economic issues that threatened the global recovery in 2010 persist. Regarding the European debt crisis, many analysts and market commentators have had their eyes locked on the issues playing out in Spain, Greece and other components of the PIGS nations. However, outside of those nations, other EU members such as Belgium facing daunting headwinds.


Belgium has remained locked in an election stalemate that has persisted for more than 200 days as the two feuding halves of the country fail to reach a political compromise. This turmoil comes at a difficult time. According to Bloomberg, Belgium currently boasts the third-highest debt burden in the EU.

Until there are signs that the issues are being resolved, EWK is a fund investors will want to steer clear of.


4. SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT)

December's retail sales numbers are slated to be released at the end of this week, providing investors with insight into the strength of the most recent holiday season. Over the past few months, I have consistently encouraged investors to take a look at funds such as XRT and the First Trust Dow Jones Internet Index Fund (FDN) as ways to not only profit from holiday season shopping habits, but also gain exposure to the ongoing consumer recovery.


The resurgent consumer is a theme which I feel will continue as we head into the start of the new year.


5. Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX)

Investors appear to be taking profits on the sky-high levels of gold, silver and palladium. In response, both physically based products and metals-related ETFs have taken hits, starting the year off on a sour note.


Looking to the coming week and beyond, gold will be on the minds of investors as the economic recovery progresses and as commodities remain a closely watched area. I would advise investors to avoid unloading their precious-metals positions entirely. Instead, use products such as GDX and iShares Gold Trust (IAU) to defend against future turmoil.

TheStreet contributor Don Dion owns Dion Asset Management. At the time of publication, Dion Money Management owned First Trust Dow Jones Internet Index Fund, Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF and iShares Gold Trust.


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