NEW YORK (
) -- Positive earnings from maritime shipper
earlier this week have once again drawn investor attention to the shipping industry.
As a global economic recovery thaws frozen international trade and oil prices climb, the highly cyclical business of shipping seems to be on the upswing.
One way to gain exposure to the global shipping industry is through shares of the
Claymore/Delta Global Shipping ETF
. This ETF is up nearly 30% year to date, as oil prices and China's emergence as a major steel producer help to spur the firms that make up SEA's underlying index.
Despite the oil bubble in 2008, a global commodity boom has been afoot for the last decade. As emerging markets have tackled the expansion of infrastructure, and China has stood ready to supply steel, all eyes have been on the most efficient way to transport these goods: global shipping.
SEA attempts to offer investors a diversified exposure to shippers, and not simply concentrate on firms that just ship dry bulk or oil. The 30 companies in SEA's portfolio include h dry-bulk and tanker shippers alike. Dry-bulk ships transport finished goods like sneakers and dry commodities like iron. SEA offers exposure to dry-bulk shippers like
through its underlying portfolio.
The top component in SEA's underlying portfolio, however, is
, a tanker company that operates 100 ships and owns or charters an additional 36 shuttle tankers that carry crude oil from offshore platforms in the North Sea. TK also has 17 ships that transport liquefied natural gas. In addition to TK, SEA's portfolio includes other tanker firms like
While demand for commodities and short supply should continue to drive shipping in the near term, it is likely that shipping profits could taper in the future. Said Morningstar analyst John Gabriel: "In our view, the current backlog of ships -- which currently stands at about 65% of the world's fleet -- will likely catch up to demand within the next one to two years."
Gabriel added that, "in short, industry wide fleet expansion is likely to bring an end to recent outsized profits."
SEA is a narrowly themed sector ETF that offers unique exposure to commodities and the shipping industry. Since this sector is highly cyclical, interested investors should consider this fund for only a small portion of their portfolios. For the short term, it looks like SEA still has room to run. In the long term, however, the many forces within the shipping industry, such as fixed costs and fleet size, could turn the tide on this ETF.
-- Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.
At the time of publication, Dion did not have any positions in the funds mentioned.
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.