Among the 11 sectors represented in the S&P 500, materials is usually the most overlooked and it is easy to understand why. Simply put, at a weight of 2.61%, materials is the smallest sector allocation in the S&P 500.
Diminutive status aside, materials ETFs are worth considering. The largest materials ETF is the Materials Select Sector SPDR (NYSEARCA:XLB). An interesting aside about XLB is that this materials ETF ranks as either the best or second-best sector SPDR fund in six months of year, more than any of the other sector SPDR ETFs, according to CXO Advisory.
A basic materials ETF, such as XLB, is typically heavily allocated to chemicals manufacturers with some exposure to metals miners, plastics makers and makers of building products. However, investors can find potentially more compelling ideas by drilling deeper into the universe of materials ETFs.
For investors looking to add some cyclical exposure to their portfolios, here are some materials ETFs to consider in the second quarter.
Fidelity MSCI Materials ETF (FMAT)
Expense ratio: 0.084% per year, or $8.40 on a $10,000 investment.
Like the aforementioned XLB, the Fidelity MSCI Materials ETF (NYSEARCA:FMAT) is a traditional, cap-weighted materials ETF. The primary benefit with this Fidelity materials ETF is that this fund, like Fidelity’s other sector ETFs, is the cheapest ETF available for its respective sector. Fidelity clients can transact in FMAT on a commission-free basis.
The rub with cap-weighted materials ETFs like FMAT and XLB is that these funds feature significant concentration risk. Currently, FMAT devotes over a quarter of its weight to DowDuPont (NYSE:DWDP) and Linde (NYSE:LIN).
DowDuPont was formed by Dow Chemical’s acquisition of DuPont in 2017 and the combined company retained DuPont’s position in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. However, the company is being split into three separate units, with a new unit known as Dow maintaining a spot in the blue-chip index.
Invesco S&P SmallCap Materials ETF (PSCM)
Expense ratio: 0.29%.
The materials sector is usually the territory of large-cap companies and many materials ETFs reflect that trait, but there are some avenues for investors looking for tactical small-cap exposure in this group. The Invesco S&P SmallCap Materials ETF (NASDAQ:PSCM) is the prime avenue for investors looking for a small-cap materials ETF.
PSCM tracks an index that is the materials derivative of the widely followed S&P SmallCap 600 Index, making this materials ETF the small-cap answer to the large-cap XLB.
PSCM’s 34 holdings have an average market capitalization of $1.57 billion. Nearly two-thirds of the fund’s components are chemicals makers and this materials ETF does an admirable job of evenly dividing its exposure to growth and value stocks.
VanEck Vectors Rare Earth/Strategic Metals ETF (REMX)
Expense ratio: 0.61%.
The VanEck Vectors Rare Earth/Strategic Metals ETF (NYSEARCA:REMX) is the only fund on the market dedicated to rare earths miners and is a materials ETF for highly risk-tolerant investors.
That caveat is relevant with this materials ETF because REMX is historically more volatile than a standard materials ETF, like FMAT or XLB, and because the rare earths fund has been struggling since early 2018. Over the past 12 months, REMX is lower by 37.40% while XLB is lower by just 0.60%.
When REMX debuted in late 2010, one of its selling points was exposure to themes such as increased demand for electric and hybrid vehicles, smartphones and tablets. While those themes remain largely intact, REMX’s reaction to those demands is not always linear. Investors should also noted that less than 18% of REMX’s holdings are large caps, adding another layer of volatility to thesis with this materials ETF.
Global X Silver Miners ETF (SIL)
Expense ratio: 0.65%.
Metals miners and the related funds are part of the materials space and that group includes the Global X Silver Miners ETF (NYSEARCA:SIL). SIL, the largest silver miners ETF, tracks the Solactive Global Silver Miners Total Return Index.
Miners ETFs, including SIL, are not for all investors because these funds are often much more volatile than standard sector plays. SIL’s underlying index has annualized volatility of 36.43%, according to issuer data. The other side of that coin is that when the underlying metal, in this case silver, rips higher, miners funds can follow or even overshoot those moves. That makes this materials ETF an ideal way with which to capture some upside during a silver rally.
“Over the past five years, global demand for silver has exceeded supply,” according to Global X research. “In 2017, demand outpaced supply by 810 tons. If investments in silver bars and coins are excluded from the analysis, however, then the supply of silver continues to exceed demand.”
Invesco DWA Basic Materials Momentum ETF (PYZ)
Expense ratio: 0.60%.
While there may not be as many materials ETFs as there are funds representing other sector, materials funds are not lacking for unique methodologies. One example of that is the Invesco DWA Basic Materials Momentum ETF (NASDAQ:PYZ).
This materials ETF follows a momentum-based benchmark known as the Dorsey Wright Basic Materials Technical Leaders Index.
“The Index is designed to identify companies that are showing relative strength (momentum), and is composed of at least 30 securities from the NASDAQ US Benchmark Index,” according to Invesco. “Relative strength is the measurement of a security’s performance in a given universe over time as compared to the performance of all other securities in that universe.”
PYZ is pricier and often more volatile than traditional materials ETFs, but since inception in late 2006, the Invesco fund is beating the S&P 500 Materials Index by nearly 200 basis points.
VanEck Vectors Steel ETF (SLX)
Expense ratio: 0.56%.
The White House’s tariffs on imported goods have been controversial to say the least, but a case can be made that domestic steel producers have benefiting from the tariff effort. The VanEck Vectors Steel ETF (NYSEARCA:SLX), the only dedicated steel ETF in the U.S., is higher by more than 13% this year.
Like other focused materials ETFs, SLX can be volatile and this fund highly sensitive to supply and demand dynamics.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts believe that “over the next few years, new project startups could produce an oversupply of steel commodities,” reports ETF Trends. “The next wave of new additions is expected to come online by 2022, as U.S. steel capacity expands by 20%, inundating the market with steel and putting pressure on steelmakers’ profit margins. Merrill also predicts the U.S. industry to tighten its belts as new electric arc furnaces replace older blast furnaces.”
SPDR S&P Metals & Mining ETF (XME)
Expense ratio: 0.35%.
For investors that want to move beyond standard materials ETFs without going into a niche fund, the SPDR S&P Metals & Mining ETF (NYSEARCA:XME) is an excellent place to be. That is if the investor can handle some elevated volatility. Home to $462.19 million in assets under management, XME is one of the larger materials ETFs with an industry focus.
XME holds 29 stocks and provides exposure to these industry groups: “Aluminum, Coal & Consumable Fuels, Copper, Diversified Metals & Mining, Gold, Precious Metals & Minerals, Silver, and Steel,” according to State Street.
Nearly half of XME’s roster is allocated to steel companies, so this materials ETF should note be paired with the aforementioned SLX. Coal and aluminum stocks combine for 22.10% of the fund’s weight. XME is up 12.10% this year and needs to rally another 24% to reclaim its 52-week high.
Todd Shriber does not own any of the aforementioned securities.