Five years after the depths of the financial crisis--which was marked by, among other things, the demise of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers--the brokerage industry has recovered smartly. That's been a boon for investors in this segment of the financial sector, especially over the past year.
See Also: Smart Moves with ETFs
That brokerage stocks star in a bull market should come as no surprise. When share prices rise, investors become more confident and tend to trade more, boosting brokers' revenues. Moreover, corporate America's massive cash piles should lead to more mergers and buyouts, which in turn should boost investment banks, says S&P Capital IQ analyst Ken Leon.
iShares U.S. Broker-Dealers ETF (symbol IAI) holds stocks of 21 brokers and investment-banking concerns. The list includes both online brokers, such as E-Trade, and full-service brokers, such as Raymond James, as well as exchanges and market specialists, such as NYSE Euronext and KCG Holdings. The ETF's biggest holdings, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley (each accounting for about 7% of assets), came close to the precipice during the financial crisis, but both are now thriving, and their stocks have roughly tripled from their 2008 lows.
The Broker-Dealers ETF should be able to withstand rising interest rates better than other financial-sector funds, says Leon. That's because the ETF doesn't contain any commercial banks, which can suffer when interest rates rise.