There really is an exchange-traded fund (ETF) for that, whatever “that” is. Or at least there is a very good chance there is an ETF for what was previously an obscure or hard-to-access market segment.
These products were once called niche ETFs. Today, thematic ETF is the more politically correct and more appropriate vernacular. Whatever terminology investors choose, there is no denying this universe of funds is growing. Some official lists say there are dozens of thematic ETFs in the U.S., but a case can be made there are hundreds — and the universe is growing.
“Thematic investing follows certain social, economic, corporate, demographic, or other themes that are popular in society,” according to Fidelity. “The opportunity comes when more people believe in the same themes and investment is driven in the direction of these companies. The shift of capital ultimately could drive superior performance in a thematic portfolio if the companies in the indexes benefit from the business.”
There several traits that the best ETFs of this type share, including first-mover advantage; providing access to compelling, fast-growing niches; and impressive performances. Some thematic ETFs fight a battle to attract enough assets to lure other investors, an often vicious circle, but new data indicate more advisors and investors are willing to nibble at new, small funds. That could pave the way for increased adoption of thematic ETFs.
Here are some of the best ETFs to consider.
Best ETFs: ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (MJ)
Expense Ratio: 0.75% per year, or $75 on a $10,000 investment.
The ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (NYSEARCA:MJ) is a prime example of a successful thematic ETF as this fund recently topped $1 billion in assets under management. MJ checks several of the aforementioned boxes, notably first-mover advantage and exposure to a fast-growing theme. In fact, the MJ ETF still has the market for U.S.-listed cannabis ETFs to itself.
Of course, there is performance. Sometimes. Year-to-date, MJ is up 38%, but that is after the fund lost almost 22% last year. For ETF investors, MJ is the clear choice for accessing the cannabis boom, which is being facilitated by relaxed regulations at the state level. Marijuana is legal for adult recreational use in several states and more states are considering moves to legalize cannabis for medicinal and/or recreational purposes.
Some cash-strapped states see the money states such as California and Colorado are raking in and could look to relax marijuana laws to bolster state coffers. That bodes well for MJ over the long-term.
Pacer Benchmark Industrial Real Estate SCTR ETF (INDS)
Expense Ratio: 0.6%
Some of the best ETFs provide access to the real estate sector and do so in unique fashion. The Pacer Benchmark Industrial Real Estate SCTR ETF (NYSEARCA:INDS) hails from a family of unique, thematic ETFs with real estate exposure. INDS offers exposure to one of the real estate industry’s most compelling growth segments.
Industrial real estate investment trusts (REITs), including those residing in INDS, own facilities and warehouses used to store goods for the e-commerce boom. Industrial REITs are “important because investing in this space is a roundabout way to play the e-commerce sector without exposure to volatile and expensive retail equities like Amazon, Walmart and more,” according to Pacer.
INDS is beating the largest U.S. REIT ETF by nearly 360 basis points this years and this thematic ETF, which will be one year old in May, does not skimp on yield, as highlighted by a 30-day SEC yield of 3%.
Global X Internet of Things ETF (SNSR)
Expense Ratio: 0.68%
The Internet of Things (IoT) is at the epicenter of scores of everyday functions. Those include development and manufacturing of semiconductors and sensors, integrated products and solutions, and applications serving smart grids, smart homes, connected cars, and the industrial internet, according to Global X.
The Global X Internet of Things ETF (NASDAQ:SNSR) is the first ETF to provide dedicated IoT access. This thematic ETF tracks the Indxx Global Internet of Things Thematic Index and holds 50 stocks, most of which are technology names, but there is some healthcare exposure as well.
Bolstering the case for SNSR is IoT’s myriad consumer and industrial applications. The latter includes cloud computing, robotics and more.
“In addition to the development of smart transportation systems to support autonomous vehicles, the IoT is expected to improve energy grid efficiency, utilities services, commercial and residential property management, and the overall growth of smart cities,” according to Global X research. “The global smart grid market is forecasted to reach $61.3 billion by 2023, up from $23.8 billion in 2018, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.9%.”
ALPS Disruptive Technologies ETF (DTEC)
Expense Ratio: 0.5%
Why access just one interesting theme when you can get 10 in one ETF? The ALPS Disruptive Technologies ETF (NYSEARCA:DTEC) does just that, making this thematic fund one of the best ETFs for multi-theme exposure.
DTEC equally weights 10 disruptive technological themes, including cloud computing, fintech, healthcare innovation, IoT and mobile payments. This thematic ETF equally weights it components as well, which helps reduce concentration risk while giving investors some benefit of the size factor.
DTEC’s strategy is working. This year and over the past year, this thematic ETF is topping the Nasdaq-100 Index by impressive margins. It’s also beating the Russell 1000 Growth Index over those periods as well, making it one of the best ETFs for tech investing.
ALPS Medical Breakthroughs ETF (SBIO)
Expense Ratio: 0.5%
Although the healthcare sector is often thought of as a defensive destination, there are plenty of exciting thematic ETFs tracking this space. The ALPS Medical Breakthroughs ETF (NYSEARCA:SBIO) is definitely one of those funds.
Traditional biotech ETFs focus on large-cap stocks, but SBIO is anything but traditional.
“Stocks included in the Underlying Index must also sustain an average daily trading volume in excess of $1 million for the 90-day period preceding an Underlying Index reconstitution. Constituents must be able to sustain the monthly rates at which they use shareholder capital (‘cash burn rates’) for at least 24 months,” according to ALPS.
SBIO is one of the best ETFs to capitalize on its strategy. Over the past three years, this thematic ETF has beaten the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index by a better than 2-to-1 margin.
As of this writing, Todd Shriber did not own any of the aforementioned securities.