The materials sector has been one of the S&P's leaders thus far in 2016 with returns trailing only utilities and energy. Todd Rosenbluth, director of ETF & mutual fund research at S&P Global Market Intelligence, said there are a number of worthwhile materials ETFs for investors looking to jump in mid-year.
Rosenbluth highlighted the Materials Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLB - Get Report) , up 10% year-to-date, as a good place to start. The XLB is the largest of the diversified materials sector ETFs, with $2.7 billion in assets. The XLB tracks the S&P 500 constituents and is market-cap weighted with Dow Chemical (DOW) and DuPont (DD - Get Report) combining for 23% of assets, followed by a 9% stake in Monsanto (MON) . The top 10 holdings were 63% of assets and it sports a modest 0.14% expense ratio.
Another materials sector ETF favored by Rosenbluth is the Fidelity MSCI Materials fund (FMAT - Get Report) . Though the FMAT is much smaller in size and trades with a wider bid/ask spread, FMAT has a lower expense ratio of 0.12%.
"This Fidelity ETF is more diversified than XLB, with 123 holdings and 16% of assets in Dow and DuPont," said Rosenbluth.
He added that mid-cap materials companies that are expected to have stronger earnings growth in 2016, such as Royal Gold (RGLD - Get Report) and Steel Dynamics (STLD - Get Report) , are more represented in this ETF.
John Hancock MultiFactor Materials (JHMA) is a materials sector ETF that launched in March 2016. Unlike its market-cap weighted peers, JHMA emphasizes smaller cap companies with relatively low valuations and high profitability, according to Rosenbluth. International Paper (IP - Get Report) and LyondelBassell Industries (LYB - Get Report) were heftier positions in JHMA than in XLB and FMAT. JHMA sports a 0.50% expense ratio and has a wider bid/ask spread than its peers.
Finally, Rosenbluth said investors should consider the VanEck Gold Miners ETF (GDX - Get Report) , which is up 86% this year even as gold has only risen 21%. This $8 billion ETF has 90% of its assets in gold stocks, such as Barrick Gold (ABX) and Newmont Mining (NEM - Get Report) with the remainder in silver. GDX has a 0.52% expense ratio but trades with a narrow bid/ask spread.