The oft-overlooked materials sector is a cyclical group and a small slice of the broader U.S. equity market, but for tactical investors, there are some compelling opportunities in this group.
That includes mining stocks and the related exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Mining ETFs are considered industry funds and many are more volatile than traditional materials ETFs. While materials funds are usually heavily allocated to chemicals makers, investors willing to take on the added volatility associated with mining ETFs can access more focused assets, including precious metals miners, coal, steel and more.
Another element investors need to acknowledge with mining ETFs is the array of factors that can affect these investors. Those factors include the strength of the U.S. dollar, international trade deals, geopolitical events and the strength of emerging markets economies.
For investors willing to add some more risk to their portfolios, here are some mining ETFs to consider.
VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX)
Expense Ratio: 0.53%, or $53 annually per $10,000 invested
The VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSEARCA:GDX) is not just the largest gold miners fund, it is one of the dominant names among mining ETFs of any stripe. Investors that are familiar with GDX and other gold mining ETFs know that simply because spot gold prices are rising, that does not mean miners will join in on that action.
However, arguably the biggest risk with gold miners equities is that these stocks will overshoot the declines in spot gold. That scenario is happening right now. The SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEARCA:GLD) is lower by 2.68% this month, but GDX is down 7.78% over the same period and is in danger of falling below its 200-day moving average.
“The gold stocks are mired in something of a psychological limbo these days,” reports Mining.com. “They aren’t exactly out of favor, but there’s little enthusiasm for this sector. Investors and speculators have largely lost interest for technical, sentimental, and fundamental reasons.”
Year-to-date, investors have pulled $1.36 billion from GDX.
SPDR S&P Metals & Mining ETF (XME)
Expense Ratio: 0.35%
The SPDR S&P Metals & Mining ETF (NYSEARCA:XME) is a diverse mining ETF. This equal-weight fund, which is nearly 13 years old, targets the S&P Metals and Mining Select Industry Index.
The $433.35 million XME “seeks to provide exposure to the metals & mining segment of the S&P TMI, which comprises the following sub-industries: Aluminum, Coal & Consumable Fuels, Copper, Diversified Metals & Mining, Gold, Precious Metals & Minerals, Silver, and Steel,” according to State Street.
XME holds just 29 stocks, more than half of which are steelmakers. Domestic steel stocks have benefited from the White House’s tariff’s on foreign steel, but that news has already been baked into those stocks.
XME is a credible mining ETF for tactical traders with elevated risk tolerance. Over the past three years, this mining ETF’s average annualized volatility was 27.30%, or 1,200 points above the same metric on the S&P 500 Materials Index.
Global X Lithium & Battery Tech ETF (LIT)
Expense Ratio: 0.75%
The Global X Lithium & Battery Tech ETF (NYSEARCA:LIT) is often viewed as more of a thematic fund than a dedicated mining ETF, but several of LIT’s 39 holdings actually do mine and produce lithium. While LIT has been a roller coaster ride for a while now, as highlighted by a 12-month loss of 15%, this is arguably one of the more compelling mining ETFs.
Traditional mining ETFs focus on companies that are engaged in old school industries, such as coal mining and steel production. Conversely, LIT is at the epicenter of some futuristic trends, including the global shift to electric vehicles, which are powered by lithium-ion batteries.
“Battery metals tracker Adamas Intelligence says that in February 2019, 76% more lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) was deployed worldwide in batteries of new electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid electric passenger vehicles compared to the same month last year,” reports Mining.com. “The Dutch-Canadian research company, which tracks EV registrations and battery chemistries in more than 80 countries, says among all metals and materials found in EV battery cathodes, lithium use saw the greatest gains.”
With electric vehicles just a few years away from meeting traditional automobiles in terms of price synergies, LIT is one of the most compelling mining ETFs in terms of favorable long-term fundamentals.
Invesco S&P SmallCap Materials ETF (PSCM)
Expense Ratio: 0.29%
As its name implies, the Invesco S&P SmallCap Materials ETF (NASDAQ:PSCM) is a materials fund, not a dedicated mining ETF, but the fund does have some mining exposure and represents a solid choice for investors looking for mining exposure without the commitment of a fund explicitly dedicated to this industry.
PSCM’s 34 member firms “are principally engaged in the business of producing raw materials, including paper or wood products, chemicals, construction materials, and mining and metals,” according to Invesco.
More than 17% of PSCM’s holdings are considered mining companies. Nearly 36% of the mining ETF’s components are classified as value stocks while more than 29% are considered growth stocks. PSCM is beating the large-cap XLB by nearly 800 basis points YTD.
Global X Silver Miners ETF (SIL)
Expense Ratio: 0.65%
Many of the same dynamics that apply to gold and gold mining ETFs apply to silver and the related miners. That makes sense because silver often follows gold in either direction. Currently, that is problematic for the Global X Silver Miners ETF (NYSEARCA:SIL), which is lower by nearly 11% this month.
What is concerning about SIL’s price action this year and that of silver itself is that the global economy is mostly strong. That should benefit silver because about half the demand for the white metal is industrial demand. Additionally, some market observers argue that the silver market is not in a supply deficit despite reports to the contrary. If there were a legitimate supply deficit, then silver and the related mining ETFs would likely be displaying better price action.
For the seven trading sessions ending Tuesday, April 23, SIL closed lower on six of those days and now resides about 5.50% below its 200-day moving average. This is a mining ETF for traders to keep on their radars, but being in it right now is a risky bet at best.
Todd Shriber does not own any of the aforementioned securities.
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