In perusing through traditional financial news mediums and blogs, hardly a half hour passes before the Cupertino-based technology giant enters the discussion. A Google (GOOG) news search for "Apple" quickly reveals the massive cache of articles that have been written, singing the company's praises or questioning its long-term strengths.
Though overwhelming and deafening at times, Apple's popularity is understandable. Thanks to the wild success and sweeping popularity of its products, the firm has managed to surge through the ranks to become the world's most valuable company by valuation.
Analysts have also noted that, with this week's announcement that the firm would be instating a quarterly dividend, making it the second largest payer of dividends in the S&P 500, surpassed only by AT&T (T), according to the Wall Street Journal.It is impossible to deny the company's influence over the technology sector. The iShares Dow Jones U.S. Technology Sector Index Fund (IYW) dedicates more than one-fifth of its assets to Apple. The fund's second largest holding, Microsoft (MSFT), accounts for 9% of its index. The company's influence extends to broader market indices as well. Both the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) and the Nasdaq 100 Index-tracking PowerShares QQQ (QQQ) list the firm as their top position, accounting for 4% and 20% of their portfolios respectively. "As goes Apple, so goes the market," is not just a tongue in cheek expression. Given Apple's stellar start to 2012, investors may be comfortable going all in on the tech giant. Concentrated exposure, however, can create headaches down the road. In the event of an Apple slip-up, funds like QQQ could be in for a rocky ride. Luckily, there are ways nervous investors can defend themselves against such an occurrence. The First Trust Nasdaq-100 Equal Weight Index Fund (QQEW) offers a welcomed respite for individuals wary of Apple's ability to maintain its standout strength. Unlike QQQ, which tracks the Nasdaq 100 based on market capitalization-weighted strategy, QQEW looks at the index through an equal-weighted lens. In doing so, the fund dramatically pares Apple's power, reducing its stake to 1%. This strategy reduces top-heaviness and allows other index components to drive some action. The fund's top five holdings include Fossil (FOSL), Netflix (NFLX), Amazon (AMZN), Apple, and NetApp (NTAP). This week, Direxion unveiled its own equal weighted Nasdaq-tracking product, the Direxion Nasdaq-100 Equal Weighted Index Shares (QQQE). This product is one of only a few non-leveraged products in the company's arsenal. Although there have been a few bursts of popularity, investors have been slow to embrace QQEW. The fund is nearing its sixth birthday, but boasts an average trading volume of only 50,000. This could soon change, though, as the market questions what's next for the firm. In response to news of the Apple's dividend/buyback plan, some have expressed concerns for its future strength. These doubters point to other tech giants like Microsoft (MSFT) which have struggled in the years following their own dividend announcements. Apple may be the belle of the ball at this time, but investors should be careful not to let themselves become overexposed. It will need to gather and maintain popularity in order to become a viable investment option, but an equal-weighted product like QQEW is an option worth keeping an eye on. Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.