The first half of April is usually kind to financial services stocks and exchange traded funds, but that was not the case this year.
The Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF) rose 0.8% on Wednesday, but from April 1 through April 15, the largest U.S. sector ETF tumbled 3.3%. XLF’s April struggles come after investors poured $1.5 billion into financial services ETFs in March. [Slow First Quarter for ETF Inflows]
If there is a silver lining regarding XLF’s recent woes it is that the ETF has not violated support offered by a multi-year trendline.
XLF “started to lose momentum about a year ago even as prices continued to edge higher. The trendline that has supported it since then, however, remains intact, which suggests the overall financial sector is in the midst of a correction, not a new bear market. Indeed, its 200-day moving average is also intact,” writes Michael Kahn for Barron’s.
With the benefit of Wednesday’s broader market rally, XLF was able to close slightly above its 50-day moving average for the first time in four sessions. The ETF is 4.6% above its 200-day line and 3.6% below its 52-weel high.
The SPDR S&P Bank ETF (KBE) has been hit even harder this month, falling 5.6% through Tuesday. The ETF gained 0.6% on Wednesday. KBE is a different beast than XLF. The former holds 55 stocks while the latter is home to 85. XLF is heavily allocated to the largest banks, such as Wells Fargo (WFC), J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM) and Bank of America (BAC).
KBE uses an equal weight approach and of those three aforementioned stocks, only Wells Fargo appears in the ETF’s top-10 holdings. Fundamentally, KBE has been strong as the ETF has benefited from positive results from the Federal Reserve’s annual Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR), which allowed for enhanced shareholder rewards plans. All but one of KBE’s holdings that were subjected to the Fed’s stress tests passed. [Higher Interest Rates Could Support Bank ETFs]
Still, investors should keep close watch on KBE’s chart.
“March and April highs for the ETF took place at a nearly perfect 50% retracement of the 2007-2009 bear market. The market does keep tabs of inflection points such as this, even though their influence is not obvious to short-term traders. They often mark the spot from which changes begin,” according to Barron’s.
SPDR S&P Bank ETF