By Michael Johnston, founder of
NEW YORK (
) -- Technology ETFs have hit a wall in recent days, slumping on news of an analyst downgrade to
Research in Motion
, slashes in projected semiconductor demand, and weak earnings reports from several Internet companies.
With an uncertain holiday shopping season ahead, the fate of the technology sector is very much up in the air, and technology ETFs could be on the move in coming weeks.
BMO Capital Markets cut its rating on Blackberry maker Research in Motion on Wednesday, pointing to increased competition from Verizon as consumers opt for less expensive smartphones. Also weighing on the tech sector were weak results from
(CRM - Get Report)
(ADSK - Get Report)
, which lost about 3% and 10%, respectively, during yesterday's session.
On Thursday, BofA Merrill Lynch lowered its 2010 growth forecast for global semiconductor industry and downgraded 10 chipmakers, including
(INTC - Get Report)
. "While we believe the correction will likely prove short and shallow, we think any hint of a correction in the supply chain could punish (semiconductor) stocks," BofA Merrill told its clients in a note.
BofA Merrill cut its 2010 growth estimate for the sector from 21% to 18%, due in part to anticipated weakness in demand for PCs. More than 40% of semiconductor sales are directly or indirectly linked to PC sales, making the chip sector dependent on demand for computers.
ETF Plays on Technology
For investors looking to make a play on technology, there are dozens of ETF options, ranging from broad-based sector funds to more targeted niche ETFs. Here a few.
- SPDR Technology Select Sector Fund(XLK): This broad-based technology fund includes both consumer products companies like Apple (8.5% weighting) and more traditional business-to-business companies like Cisco (6.4%). XLK is up more than 40% on the year, although it has pulled back slightly in recent sessions.
- HOLDRS Merrill Lynch Semiconductor(SMH): This ETF includes several of the companies downgraded by Merrill, meaning it will likely tumble on Thursday. But if the revised forecast for growth proves overly pessimistic, the slip in share price of SMH could create some buying opportunities. Other semiconductor-specific ETFs include iShares Goldman Sachs Semiconductors Index Fund(IGW), SPDR S&P Semiconductors ETF(XSD), and PowerShares Dynamic Semiconductors(PSI).
- ProShares UltraShort Technology(REW): For investors who think the technology sector is headed for a downward correction, REW offers a way to gain inverse leveraged exposure to the sector. It should be noted that REW focuses on delivering daily returns of the Dow Jones U.S. Technology Index, so it requires regular monitoring.