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A Powerful Aerospace ETF

ETF Professor

Following the November U.S. election, widely documented has been the potency of aerospace and defense stocks and exchange traded funds.

On the campaign trail, President Donald Trump pledged to boost defense spending by $55 billion to $80 billion. Whether or not the Trump administration and Congress can come together on increased defense spending that's anywhere close to the president-elect's objectives remains to be seen, but it's clear that markets like the idea.

For example, the PowerShares Aerospace & Defense Portfolio (NYSE: PPA), although it has backed off its recent highs, is up nearly 6 percent year-to-date and 31 percent over the past 12 months.

PPA, which turned 11 years old in late October, tracks the SPADE Defense Index, which “is designed to identify a group of companies involved in the development, manufacturing, operations and support of US defense, homeland security and aerospace operations,” according to PowerShares.

“After showing flat to declining growth since 2010, US defense orders — which include aircraft, related parts and other military hardware produced by the Department of Defense — have been trending upward and are now approaching 2010 highs as a result of revitalized defense spending that began under President Obama and looks to increase even more under President Trump. The president’s recently unveiled budget proposal calls for a 10% ($54 billion) increase in military spending, which is likely to be well-received by many members of the GOP-led Congress,” said PowerShares in a recent note

PPA holds 50 stocks. The ETF's top 10 holdings combine for about 55 percent of its weight. Those top 10 holdings include Dow components Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) and United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX) as well as other blue-chip defense names such as General Dynamics Corp. (NYSE: GD) and Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT).

While defense spending fell for several years leading up to 2015, it's worth noting that from 2009, the year President Obama took office, through 2015, PPA outperformed traditional, diversified industrial ETFs in all but two years.

“In its January earnings call, Boeing executives indicated that they view aviation as a long-term growth industry, and that Boeing is seeing healthy passenger traffic and a modestly improving air cargo market — conditions that are constructive for aircraft production,” said PowerShares. “If aircraft manufacturers manage order volume efficiently, the upward trend in commercial aircraft demand could flow through to the bottom line in the form of healthy profit growth.”

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