Another company has thrown itself into the exchange-traded fund arena, offering a small lineup of products, but one that is sure to raise a few eyebrows. On Thursday, Claymore Securities -- known best for its role in the closed-end fund and unit investment-trust spaces -- launched five ETFs on the American Stock Exchange. The products, which track everything from corporate insider trading to neglected stocks, add a new and interesting twist to ETFs; however, opinions are split on how these products will fit into investors' portfolios. David Cohen, managing director of Claymore, says these products are a departure from many of the ETFs currently on the market, which mainly give investors exposure to different sectors, market caps, regions or company components such as dividends. The Claymore funds, he says, enable people to invest in a strategy, all within the confines of the ETF. For instance, the Claymore/BNY BRIC ETF ( EEB) is designed to track the four fastest growing emerging markets -- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- also known as the
BRIC countries. According to Cohen, "this is a long-term growth story," as these countries are eventually expected to have a higher combined gross domestic product than that of the G6 nations combined. Here's the rest of the Claymore ETF lineup: The Claymore/Sabrient Insider ETF ( NFO) looks for positive trends in insider buying and Wall Street analyst upgrades. The idea behind this product is that corporate insiders and analysts are most familiar with companies' long-term prospects and the underlying stocks.
Then there's the Claymore/Sabrient Stealth ETF ( STH), which is designed to identify stocks that have displayed robust growth characteristics but are neglected in the market, meaning they have no more than two analysts following them. ( TheStreet.com ( TSCM), which publishes this Web site, currently has a 1.01% weighting in this ETF.) The Claymore/Zacks Sector Rotation ETF ( XRO) does just what its name implies -- it moves in and out of sectors. The goal behind this fund is to overweight cyclical sectors ahead of expected economic expansion. Last on the list is the Claymore/Zacks Yield Hog Index ( CVY), which identifies companies with potentially higher income and superior risk-reward profiles. The product contains several different and lower-correlated asset classes, including dividend-paying stocks and ADRs, preferred securities, closed-end funds, master limited partnerships and REITs. According to Claymore's Cohen, "These are very unique alpha-driven vehicles ... they are additive to any portfolio." Michael Woods, chief executive of XTF, an investment company specializing in building, managing and trading diversified ETF-based portfolios, agrees that these products could be good additions to investors' portfolios -- primarily investors who are better educated. "Investors who are looking to build on a core portfolio can use some of these offerings, such as the Insider and the Yield Hog, to really add some alpha in specific asset classes and niches," he says.
But not everyone thinks so. Marta Norton, a fund analyst with Morningstar, says, "If investors are interested in these ETFs, they should take a hard look at them and see what they offer vs. what conventional ETFs have." "I'm not sure these are something completely new, even though they look different," she adds. One issue Norton has with the Claymore funds is cost: All five ETFs are capped at 0.60%. In many cases, Norton says, "I think you can find virtually the same things these ETFs offer ... with a more conventional ETF with a lower expense ratio." Norton is also concerned about the potential volatility of some of the products and possible overlap within investors' portfolios. On the cost side, XTF's Woods says, "It's hard to say if they're high
in cost or low. You have to put it in proper perspective." The cost is high compared with broad-based ETFs such as the SPDRs ( SPY), which charge 0.10%, he says. However, compared with newer, more creative ETFs, they're pretty much in line, and they're a lot cheaper than most actively managed mutual funds, Woods adds. In terms of volatility, he says it depends on the ETFs' designated purpose in a portfolio. If they are being used outside the core of the portfolio, investors may want some volatility. Woods is a fan of the new products, but says, "We have to see them trade for about six months to see how they fit into the market."