To borrow a title from a revolutionary story, you could call the U.S. today "A Tale of Two Economies." Overall employment and gross domestic product in the U.S. are growing, while key sectors such as manufacturing and energy struggle and wage gains for workers remain meager.
So, what gives? How can the U.S. post job gains, while major employers in the energy patch and industrial heartland announce massive layoffs? The paradox is explained by the unstoppable growth of the services sector. Fueling services is the resurgence of entrepreneurial small to medium-sized companies, a phenomenon that President Obama lauded in his State of the Union address on Jan. 12.
Below, we spotlight three exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that are designed to profit from this economic trend. These ETFs belong to a group of technology investments that are tapping the most salient innovations in business and society.
The economic contradiction between services growth and manufacturing decline accounts for the starkly divergent perceptions espoused by the two political parties in this presidential election year. Democrats accentuate the positives, whereas Republicans highlight the negatives. Watch the televised debates and it's as if the parties are describing two different countries, if not planets.
The fact remains, in December alone, employers boosted payrolls by 292,000, far exceeding analysts' expectations. And yet, the plunge in oil and commodity prices, exacerbated by a strong dollar and flagging factory activity, has weighed on GDP growth. The U.S. is projected to post year-over-year growth of 2.5% this year, a steady but tepid rate that doesn't jibe with robust employment gains.
The answer lies in services. To be sure, the rise of the service economy (in tandem with a decline in old-line manufacturing) is not a new phenomenon. This structural economic change has been underway since the 1970s. However, over the past year, the predominance of services has sharply accelerated to the point where we are truly beginning to witness "two Americas." This transformation is on track to gain momentum in 2016 and beyond, with profound consequences for your investing decisions.
According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in services, which now accounts for 86% of the American labor force, soared by more than 2.3 million in 2015. Manufacturing, which comprises only 9% of employment, added merely 13,000 jobs. The BLS expects this dichotomy to widen into 2024, which makes the following ETFs great ways to profit from the socioeconomic disruption we'll see over the next decade and beyond.
1. SPDR S&P Software & Services ETF (XSW)
With assets of $50.26 million, the SPDR S&P Software & Services fund tries to reflect the daily performance of the S&P Software & Services Select Industry Index, which represents the software subsector taken from the S&P Total Stock Market Index. Major holdings include Sapient, Digital River, Qualys and Callidus Software. Expense ratio: 0.35%. The SPDR Software & Services ETF is positioned to be one of the technology sector growth stars of 2016.
2. iShares US Consumer Services (IYC)
With $1.08 billion in assets, this ETF seeks to track the investment results of the Dow Jones U.S. Consumer Services Index. Top holdings include Amazon, Home Depot, Walt Disney, McDonald's, CVS Health, Starbucks and Comcast. Expense ratio: 0.45%.
3. SPDR FactSet Innovative Technology ETF (XITK)
If you have a greater appetite for risk, consider this new ETF that began trading on the NYSE Arca on Jan. 14. (It's still too new for us to provide a chart of it.) Launched by State Street Global Advisors, this fund seeks exposure to companies with high revenue growth, including companies involved in cutting edge research, innovative service development and disruptive technologies.
The SPDR FactSet Innovative Technology ETF's top holdings include: Rovi, Super Micro Computer, Quality Systems, Alphabet, Cray, WebMD Health, Computer Programs & Systems, SolarWinds, CyberArk Software and EZchip Semiconductor. Expense ratio: 0.45%.
SPDR FactSet Innovative is is geared toward "game changing" entrepreneurial companies -- precisely the entities that are transforming the U.S. economy.
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