NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- ETF provider First Trust doesn't get a lot of attention, but it has some very interesting funds -- including ones targeting platinum and copper miners. The latest, the First Trust NASDAQ CEA Smartphone Index Fund (FONE) , could prove to be one of its most popular listings to date.
If you follow the stock and gadget markets at all, you know most of the larger players here.
Research in Motion
was the hot name a few years ago when the Blackberry was new, and lately
has been the king with the iPhone and other gadgets.
could potentially become relevant again.
made news recently announcing it would adopt software from
. And there are other companies bound to enter the fray in the next year or two.
ETF provider First Trust has a new offering on 74 constituents making and marketing smartphones.
This is an incredibly dynamic space. As huge of a winner as RIMM was earlier in the past decade, the stock is down 26% in the past three years versus a gain of 187% for Apple in the same period. But in the prior three years RIMM was up 480% versus Apple's stellar 260% gain. Fortunes changing over the next three years and favoring some other company could hardly be thought of as a black swan, and the new ETF gives investors a shot at having at least some exposure to whichever company turns out to be the Apple of the next three years (even if it's Apple).
The fund will have 74 constituents and an expense ratio of 0.70%. The actual construction of the fund is a modified market cap structure such that none of the holdings dominate the fund -- so Apple is not 20% of the fund. Handset companies make up 45% of the fund; another 45% is in hardware components and software applications; and the other 10% is in network providers. There are companies you would expect to see, such as Samsung and Nokia, but also names you've probably never heard of, including Compal Communications and Wistron, both Taiwanese. The U.S. is the largest country weight by far at 43%, but the fund also has exposure to more than 10 other countries, making it reasonably global.
The First Trust website has all sorts of statistics as to why the smartphone theme could continue to be a moneymaker, but intuitively you already understand the story -- you've either bought your first smartphone in the past two years or will buy it in the next two. If you have one, realistically you will need to upgrade or replace it every so often. The demand story is very steady. The stock prices may not be so steady, but the space does have the right kind of tailwind.
The big criticism here will likely be the potentially gimmicky nature of the fund. I would not associate the word "gimmick" with a very narrow specialty fund; the daily volume in Apple and RIMM shows that the space is popular for trading and investing. But not every investor is comfortable buying individual stocks, even if the company's product is in their pocket.
The fund makes the theme available to fund investors to assess and decide "yes" or "no" on purchase, and more choice for investors is not a bad thing. There have been plenty of very narrow funds that have failed and shut down and plenty more that in terms of volume and assets have proven out quite successful. The smartphone ETF captures a theme most people understand and does so with decent diversification. Market participants will sort out whether the fund has any utility.
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At the time of publication, Roger Nusbaum had no positions in the securities mentioned, although positions may change at any time. Nusbaum is a portfolio manager with Your Source Financial of Phoenix, and the author of Random Roger's Big Picture Blog. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Nusbaum appreciates your feedback;
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