NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- As the ETF industry becomes more expansive, providers are going to ever greater lengths to produce funds that will generate interest from the broad investing public.
While many funds manage to catch on right from the get-go, many more end up falling by the wayside. Interestingly, some funds that have struggled to gain popularity actually track interesting slices of the broad market. In this piece I will highlight five products which, while illiquid, have caught my attention.
Please note all the funds highlighted below are considered illiquid and therefore potentially subject to greater spreads. Risk tolerant investors looking to try their luck with any of these products listed should keep exposure small and maintain a very close watch on their performance.
Claymore/Sabrient Defensive Equity Index ETF
With economic concerns stoking fear in the hearts of many investors, investors are increasingly on the prowl for the best way to play defense. While in the past I have highlighted bond funds, gold, and dividend players like
iShares Dow Jones Select Dividend Index Fund
as ways to combat against economic threats, DEF is another interesting option.
This Claymore fund is designed to track the Sabrient Defensive Equity Index. Comprising this index is a number of stocks, ADRs, and master limited partnerships which will aid investors in their attempts to ward off economic headwinds.
Top holdings include
Enterprise GP Holdings
. The fund is diversified; together, these positions represent only 5% of the fund's index. And although it changes hands less than 20,000 times per day, it has still managed to earn five stars from
Aside from providing investors with sanctuary against market downturn, DEF also provides an annual dividend valued at close to 3% and has beat the S&P 500 Index in the past year and year to date.
Global X China Technology ETF
The smartphone showdown between
continues to rage in the United States. However, the outcome may ultimately be decided on which of these companies can holds the crown among the growing population of Chinese mobile users.
Launched in late 2009, Global X's CHIB is part of the firm's unique suite of sector-specific China ETFs. Designed to encompass the nation's tech industry, this fund boasts exposure to popular names including
Telecom giants including
also make appearances among the fund's index. These companies are all well positioned to benefit from the growth of the smartphone and Internet sectors of the Chinese economy.
Over the past month, this fund has outperformed broader China ETFs such as
iShares FTSE/Xinhua China 25 Index Fund
Claymore/Robb Report Global Luxury Index ETF
Throughout the global economic recovery, investors have made several bets on the comeback of the consumer and the retail industry. However, performance in retail has been spotty and retail shares have been punished during sell-offs. Although I typically point to
SPDR S&P Retail ETF
as an adequately liquid way to play the global consumer, another exciting fund I have kept an eye on has been ROB.
Luxury retail picked up much quicker than mass consumer markets and this pace has quickened. The luxury retail industry has dramatically beaten out the broader index underlying XRT in the past three months, to the tune of nearly 25%.
Boasting exposure to companies including Hermes International, BMW, LVMH, and The Swatch Group, this fund taps into the spending habits of the top 1%.
Despite the continued outperformance, the average volume is about 4,000 shares per day and on three days in July, zero shares changed hands.
Claymore/BNY Mellon Frontier Markets ETF
While the U.S., EU and BRIC nations remain popular global regions for conservative investors, risk tolerant players may find the frontier markets more to their liking. These nations typically have less correlation to the rest of the global economy.
FRN is designed to track a basket of companies hailing from up and coming nations often overlooked by traditional international exchange traded funds.
While three markets that have their own single country ETFs represent nearly 60% of assets (Chile, Egypt, and Colombia) it also sports exposure to countries such as Peru, Kazakhstan, Lebanon and the Czech Republic. Year to date, FRN is beating EEM by about 15%.
The fund now has ample liquidity, at over 70,000 shares per day, but still only $30 million in assets.
Market Vectors Environmental Services ETF
BP has made a lot of progress in its efforts to halt the flow of oil pouring out of the site of the Deepwater Horizon Oil rig. Stopping the oil, however, is only one step towards returning the region back to its original state. Truly closing the book on this unfortunate event will require cleaning up the residual mess left behind.
There is a good chance that some of the companies listed among EVX's portfolio will be the ones responsible for completing this daunting task.
EVX's index is comprised of 22 companies focused on various environmental services. The fund's top four positions,
command 40% of the fund's portfolio.
Compared to a similar mutual fund, the
Fidelity Select Environmental Fund
, EVX has outperformed over the past year, though they're running neck and neck year to date.
EVX trades about 5,000 shares per day.
-- Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.
At the time of publication, Dion Money Management was long iShares Dow Jones Select Dividend Index 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.