NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Southwest Airlines' (LUV) - Get Report decision to acquire AirTran (AAI) follows on the heels of the announcement that Continental (CAL) - Get Report was uniting with United (UAUA) .
This boost in M&A activity within the airline industry may have investors eyeing the sector right now.
Unfortunately, the ETF that provides specific exposure to the industry, the
Guggenheim Airline ETF
, has a few flaws which make me hesitant towards recommending it for a long-term position.
For one, FAA spreads assets amongst its portfolio components a bit too unevenly for my taste. The fund, which until recently was known as the Claymore/NYSE Arca Global Airline ETF, devotes roughly 15% of net assets each to its top three holdings, Southwest Airlines, United and
Delta Air Lines
Also, despite being a global fund, FAA allocates a lopsided 72% of net assets to companies from the United States.
The final problem with FAA, and perhaps the greatest, is its low volume, which makes it vulnerable to volatility and tracking error.
Although investors have no other alternative fund that can be considered a pure play on the airline industry, there are ways to gain exposure to the sector through other products.
One option is to use
iShares Dow Jones Transportation Average Index Fund
. This fund tracks companies which represent multiple sub-sectors of the broad transportation industry.
The airline industry claims 8% of net assets in the ETF and the five companies represented in order of greatest exposure to least exposure are CAL, LUV, DAL,
Video: Avoid Airline ETF Turbulence >>
In addition to the airline sector, companies from the railroad, marine, and trucking transportation sectors are all represented.
The best represented industries are railroads, delivery services, and trucking, which account for 28%, 23%, and 21% of the ETF's portfolio, respectively. Examples of companies from these three sectors, respectively, are
C.H. Robinson Worldwide
The sector diversification inherent of a fund like IYT will give investors greater stability in the face of market headwinds. The ample volume of the ETF will also allow investors to not be concerned about liquidity or tracking error.
While stable, with such a small portion of its index set aside for the airlines, investors specifically seeking exposure to the industry may be left wanting more. In this case, there is a transportation-focused mutual fund which allocates a greater portion of its portfolio to the airline industry.
Fidelity Transportation Fund
boasts over 12% of its assets are devoted to the airline industry, making its devotion to the sector slightly greater than IYT.
Although it has a larger portion of its portfolio set aside for the airlines, FSRFX shares a number of similarities with its ETF competitor. The two funds share six of same companies in their top 10 holdings.
Ultimately, I feel that the transportation industry will be an important region of the market to watch as we head not only towards economic recovery, but into the 2010 holiday season.
While both IYT and FSRFX are suitable alternatives to FAA, they appeal to different audiences. Those seeking a broad play on the transports should stick to IYT. Those who are specifically looking for airline exposure, however, should find FSRFX more to their liking.
-- Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.
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At the time of publication, Dion Money Management was long Fidelity Transportation Fund.
Don Dion is president and founder of
, 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.
Dion also is 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.