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Leveraged ETFs: Comprehension Is Key

Stocks in this article: FAZ FAS SKF

He has a point. Futures-based commodity ETFs also employ a potentially dangerous level of complexity, while ETNs expose investors to risk they don't always understand. Older ProShares leveraged funds such as UltraShort Real Estate (SRS), UltraShort Financials (SKF) and Ultra Financials (UYG) employed a somewhat simpler methodology than their contemporary peers. As it is impossible to generalize about the nature of all ETFs, it is also impossible to generalize about the nature of leveraged ETFs.

Leveraged ETFs can be useful tools for professional traders looking to hedge positions on an intraday basis. These funds have been marketed to the public, however, and until recently the image has been somewhat deceptive.

FINRA posted a warning on its Web site earlier this month about leveraged ETF products, and increased regulatory scrutiny is likely coming down the line. No one would argue that matches and blowtorches are the same thing -- but there is a place for both in harnessing the power of fire. There is a place for both leveraged and index ETFs, but investors must understand which ones they need.

At the time of publication, Dion had no positions in the stocks mentioned.

Don Dion is the publisher of the Fidelity Independent Adviser family of newsletters, which provides to a broad range of investors his commentary on the financial markets, with a specific emphasis on mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. With more than 100,000 subscribers in the U.S. and 29 other countries, Fidelity Independent Adviser publishes six monthly newsletters and three weekly newsletters. Its flagship publication, Fidelity Independent Adviser, has been published monthly for 11 years and reaches 40,000 subscribers.

Dion is also president and founder of Dion Money Management, a fee-based investment advisory firm to affluent individuals, families and nonprofit organizations, where he is responsible for setting investment policy, creating custom portfolios and overseeing the performance of client accounts. Founded in 1996 and based in Williamstown, Mass., Dion Money Management manages assets for clients in 49 states and 11 countries. Dion is a licensed attorney in Massachusetts and Maine and has more than 25 years' experience working in the financial markets, having founded and run two publicly traded companies before establishing Dion Money Management.

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