Global Shipping ETF Has Smoother Sailing

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The Guggenheim Shipping ETF ( SEA), which had a stormy launch, appears to be a safer proposition these days and should be a good way to invest in the global economic recovery when it comes.

Originally named the Claymore Delta Global Shipping Index ETF, this fund had fallen 70% within a couple of months of its launch on the then slumping global economy. The ETF also wasn't helped by its 35% weighting in Greece.

Back then, the four largest holdings in the fund were Euroseas Limited ( ESEA), Seaspan ( SSW), Diana Shipping ( DSX) and DHT Maritime (now known as DHT Holdings ( DHT)). All four stocks got crushed in the great recession and never really came back.

Since then, Claymore has become Guggenheim, and in July 2011 the company changed the index underlying the shipping fund from Delta Global Shipping Index to the Dow Jones Global Shipping Index.

This dramatically changed the makeup of the fund. Since the change, the fund has been far less volatile, and the companies populating the underlying index are more mature and more stable.

Greece now only has a 9% weighting. The largest country in the fund is Denmark, with a 22% weighting. It's followed by the U.S., with 20%; Hong Kong, with 14%; and Japan, with 13%. Other countries have smaller weightings.

The largest names in the fund are all foreign and include AP Moeller Maersk at 18% of the fund; Nippon Yusen and Mitsui OSK Lines, which each have a 7% weighting; Sembcorp Marine from Singapore, with 6%; and Cosco Pacific, with 5%.

It is very common for very specialized funds to have 15%-20% in just one stock. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does require investors to spend time studying the large holding in any fund.

In this case that's A.P. Moeller Maersk. The company is easy to follow. It's a relative mega-cap in Denmark, trades with a price-to-earnings ratio of 14, yields 2% and has been in an uptrend for the past few months.

Anyone interested in buying SEA needs to take the time to learn about Maersk, because it would make no sense to have a negative opinion on that stock and still buy the fund.

One composition quirk in SEA is that among its 26 holdings is Teekay Shipping ( TK) and TK's three spinoff companies: TK LNG Partners ( TGP), Teekay Offshore Partners ( TOO) and Teekay Tankers ( TNK). The four "Teekays" add up to 14% of the fund.

SEA has an attractive trailing yield of 3.01% because many companies in the industry have high payouts, but there is volatility in the dividends as well as the stocks, and any future dividends paid out by SEA could fluctuate considerably.

Companies in the shipping industry should benefit from increased economic activity, which results in increased exportation of finished goods and also transportation of energy products like oil and liquid natural gas.

Global economic activity has been sluggish due to ongoing problems in Europe and Japan and the weak recovery in the U.S. so it is not surprising that SEA hasn't moved much in recent months. The fund should be a good proxy for capturing a global economic recovery whenever it comes.

At the time of publication, Nusbaum had no positions in securities mentioned.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.