Semiconductor stocks proved to be important drivers of the broader technology sector’s upside in 2018. Just look at the widely followed PHLX SOX Semiconductor Sector Index, which is up 9.60% year-to-date. Investors looking to profit should consider semiconductor ETFs.
[Editor’s note: This story was previously published in September 2018. We’re upping it in light of the recent strength in semiconductors.]
On the other hand, there are risks associated with semiconductor stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Late last year, Morgan Stanley waxed bearish on the semiconductor group:
“Memory markets have worsened in recent weeks. For DRAM [memory chip], demand is weakening, inventory and pricing pressures are building, and vendors are struggling to move bits,” according to Morgan Stanley. “In NAND [flash memory], there is just too much supply. Earnings risks are emerging from 3Q and our cautious view on memory is playing out.”
Semiconductor stocks and ETFs are also facing headwinds created by the U.S.- China trade war.
“The U.S. semiconductor industry will warn President Donald Trump’s administration that curbs on exports of chips and equipment to China could damage American jobs,” according to Nikkei Asian Review.
Of course, positive surprises are always possible and negative expectations are not etched in stone. But investors looking to make bullish chip bets can consider these seven semiconductor ETFs — instead of risking their money in individual chip stocks.
iShares PHLX Semiconductor ETF (SOXX)
Expense ratio: 0.47% per year, or $47 on a $10,000 investment.
One of the largest semiconductor ETFs, the iShares PHLX Semiconductor ETF (NASDAQ:SOXX) targets the aforementioned PHLX SOX Semiconductor Sector Index. This is a cap-weighted fund, meaning it tilts toward the largest semiconductor stocks.
Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), NVIDIA and Texas Instruments (NASDAQ:TXN) are the three largest holdings in SOXX, combining for over 26% of the fund’s roster. Fortunately for SOXX investors, this semiconductor ETF is not heavily allocated to Micron Technology (NASDAQ:MU), a stock that has been absolutely drubbed in recent sessions.
The larger-cap weighting may help undercut some of the volatility in store for semiconductor ETFs and stocks if the U.S.-China trade war continues.
VanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETF (SMH)
Expense ratio: 0.35% per year
In general, semiconductor ETFs are focused funds and the VanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETF (NYSEARCA:SMH) is even more focused than rival SOXX. This semiconductor ETF is home to 25 stocks, compared to 30 in SOXX.
Like SOXX, SMH is somewhat top-heavy, but there are some differences among the semiconductor ETFs’ components. The VanEck fund devotes a combined 24.47% of its weight to Taiwan Semiconductor (NYSE:TSM), Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and NVIDIA.
SMH’s large allocations to semiconductor names like Intel and Taiwan Semiconductor put the fund front-and-center at demand trends for personal computers and related devices as well as mobile phones. SMH’s top 10 holdings, a group combining for over 58% of the fund’s weight, do not include Advanced Micro Devices.
SPDR S&P Semiconductor ETF (XSD)
Expense ratio: 0.35% per year
The semiconductor ETFs mentioned above are cap-weighted funds, but the SPDR S&P Semiconductor ETF (NYSEARCA:XSD) is an equal-weight ETF, a strategy to consider for investors looking for exposure to mid- and small-cap semiconductor names.
None of XSD’s 34 holdings exceed weights of 5.79%. Additionally, this semiconductor ETF featured Advanced Micro Devices as its largest holding, a trait not widely found among funds in this category.
Owing to the equal-weight methodology, XSD does not feature Intel nor Texas Instruments among its top 10 holdings, making this semiconductor ETF one to consider for investors looking to diversify away from some of the industry’s largest names.
Invesco Dynamic Semiconductors ETF (PSI)
Expense ratio: 0.61% per year
Keeping with the theme of semiconductor ETFs with non-cap-weighted methodologies, there is the Invesco Dynamic Semiconductors ETF (NYSEARCA:PSI). PSI offers a truly smart beta approach to semiconductor stocks.
The Dynamic Semiconductor Intellidex Index, PSI’s underlying benchmark, evaluates “companies based on a variety of investment merit criteria, including: price momentum, earnings momentum, quality, management action, and value,” according to Invesco.
PSI’s exposure to the quality and value factors, in particular, could be of use to investors at a time when analysts and market observers are concerned about the semiconductor industry’s outlook into year-end. Additionally, semiconductor stocks are viewed as somewhat overvalued relative to broad equity benchmarks, so PSI’s value exposure could be a trait to embrace. Twenty-seven percent of the fund’s holdings are classified as value stocks.
PSI’s price-to-earnings ratio of 15.91 is below the comparable metric on SOXX.
First Nasdaq Semiconductor ETF (FTXL)
Expense ratio: 0.60% per year
The First Nasdaq Semiconductor ETF (NASDAQ:FTXL) is another smart beta approach to semiconductor ETFs, but with a different approach than the aforementioned PSI.
FTXL turns two years old this month, making it the youngest semiconductor ETF highlighted here. The fund tracks the Nasdaq U.S. Smart Semiconductor Index. That index employs low volatility, growth and value factors in its stock selection process.
FTXL’s value trait focuses on cash flow-to-price, while its growth factor emphasizes price appreciation over four time frames — ranging from three to 12 months. Even with its smart beta methodology, FTXL’s 28 holdings tilt toward the largest semiconductor stocks with Texas Instruments and Intel combining for 15.32% of the fund’s weight.
SPDR Kensho Intelligent Structures ETF (XKII)
Expense ratio: 0.45% per year
The SPDR Kensho Intelligent Structures ETF (NYSEARCA:XKII) is not a pure semiconductor ETF, but the fund does feature sizable exposure to chip stocks. Among the 14 industry groups represented in XKII, semiconductors is the second-largest at 12.11%.
XKII components provide exposure to following next-generation investment themes: smart building infrastructure, smart power grids, intelligent transportation infrastructure and intelligent water infrastructure.
XKII’s underlying index “goes beyond well-known traditional Industrial firms by including companies involved in intelligent and connected home technologies, smart power grid technology, road sensors, traffic management infrastructure and smart water meters from other GICS sectors,” according to State Street Global Advisors (SsgA).
ROBO Global Robotics & Automation Index ETF (ROBO)
Expense ratio: 0.95% per year
The ROBO Global Robotics & Automation Index ETF (NASDAQ:ROBO), along with other robotics ETFs, feature some semiconductor exposure because chips are integral parts of many of the products tied to the booming artificial intelligence and robotics investment themes.
Nearly half of ROBO’s 87 holdings are classified as technology stocks. That group includes companies with exposure to artificial intelligence, computer processing, actuation, sensing and integration. All of those endeavors require some use of semiconductors.
“Some investors still see robotics and AI as niche investments,” said ROBO Global. “But more and more, even the most risk-averse among them are realizing that it is a niche that demands a presence in every long-term portfolio. Why? Because the scope of robotics and AI is vast, and the massive impact it will have on every industry in every part of the world is now undeniable.”
As of this writing, Todd Shriber does not own any of the aforementioned securities.
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