At a weight of about 10.3%, the consumer discretionary sector is merely the fifth-largest sector weight in the S&P 500, but that weight belies the sector’s importance as a gauge of the health of the broader domestic economy. Consumer spending accounts for a massive percentage of U.S. GDP, and as a cyclical sector, consumer discretionary can provide investors with important clues regarding not only the direction of equity markets, but the economy at large.
As measured by the Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR (NYSEARCA:XLY), the largest consumer cyclical exchange traded fund (ETF), the sector is again performing well. Year-to-date, XLY is up 21%. But investors considering consumer discretionary stocks and ETFs have some factors to consider, including that, like any other sector, this group has some quality names and some that leave something to be desired.
Morgan Stanley “analyzed more than 90 consumer-discretionary stocks, and found that only one-third achieved annual revenue growth of at least 5% over the past five years, while maintaining their profit margins,” reports Barron’s. “The companies that met those criteria outperformed the S&P 500 by 57 percentage points over the past five years. Those that failed lagged behind the market by 38 percentage points.”
For investors seeking consumer cyclical exposure, these are some of the best ETFs to consider.
Consumer Discretionary ETFs to Buy: Fidelity MSCI Consumer Discretionary ETF (FDIS)
Expense Ratio: 0.084% per year, or $8.40 on a $10,000 investment.
The Fidelity MSCI Consumer Discretionary ETF (NYSEARCA:FDIS) is not the largest ETF dedicated to this sector, but it is the least expensive. Like the aforementioned XLY, FDIS is a cap-weighted fund and cap-weighted consumer discretionary ETFs mean large weights to shares of Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN).
For investors looking for high concentration in just one stock, FDIS is one of the best ETFs. With a weight of nearly 26% to Amazon, FDIS is one of the best ETFs for investors looking for a proxy on the e-commerce giant.
Sixteen U.S.-listed ETFs allocate about 23% or more of their weights to a single stock. FDIS is one of four funds where that stock is Amazon. FDIS is also one of the best ETFs for frugal investors because in addition to being the cheapest consumer cyclical ETF, Fidelity clients can trade it commission-free. FDIS is up 21.3% this year.
ProShares Online Retail ETF (ONLN)
Expense Ratio: 0.58%
The ProShares Online Retail ETF (NYSEARCA:ONLN) is one of the best ETFs for investors looking to focus on the online retail theme, which continues eating away at market share previously commanded by traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. This fund tracks the ProShares Online Retail Index.
“Analysts expect the growth of online retail to continue. About 10% of global retail sales today are made online, leaving tremendous room for growth. Recent data indicates that figure could double by 2030,” according to Maryland-based ProShares.
Count ONLN among the best ETFs for Amazon exposure as well, as that stock commands over 24% of the fund’s weight. China’s Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) represents over 16% of ONLN’s roster. Its strategy is working, as the fund is up nearly 33% this year, making it one of the best ETFs since the start of 2019.
Invesco S&P 500 Equal Weight Consumer Discretionary ETF (RCD)
Expense Ratio: 0.4%
For investors looking to avoid the concentration risk that comes with cap-weighted consumer discretionary funds, the Invesco S&P 500 Equal Weight Consumer Discretionary ETF (NYSEARCA:RCD) is one of the best ETFs to consider.
RCD can be seen as the equal-weight alternative to the aforementioned XLY or FDIS. The Invesco fund holds 64 stocks, none of which exceed weights of 2%, but this is not the best ETF for investors seeking Amazon via the ETF wrapper because RCD allocates just 1.80% of its weight to Amazon.
None of RCD’s holdings are considered small-caps, but mid-caps represent over half the fund’s weight, reducing the average market value of RCD’s holdings to just under $43 billion compared with $290.8 billion on the cap-weighted XLY. Even with the reduced weight to Amazon, RCD is up an admirable 20% this year. However, historical data confirm RCD’s lack of Amazon exposure has affected the fund’s long-term returns.
Amplify Online Retail ETF (IBUY)
Expense Ratio: 0.65%
The Amplify Online Retail ETF (NASDAQ:IBUY) is the original ETF dedicated to online retail and remains one of the leaders in this space. IBUY debuted just over three years ago and has $293 million in assets under management.
This is one of the best ETFs for investors looking to tap the online retail phenomenon without excessive exposure to Amazon. While Amazon is the largest e-commerce company and one of the 40 stocks held by IBUY, it is not a top 10 holding. None of IBUY’s holdings exceed weights of 4.76%. Familiar names featured in IBUY include Etsy (NASDAQ:ETSY) and Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX).
IBUY requires its components to generate at least 70% of their sales from online venues, a requirement not found with many retail ETFs. That requirement is a difference maker because since coming to market, IBUY has easily been one of the best ETFs in the retail space. Since inception, IBUY has returned 109.4% compared to a return of 7.4% of the largest traditional retail ETF over the same period.
Global X MSCI China Consumer Discretionary ETF (CHIQ)
Expense Ratio: 0.65%
China is a massive e-commerce market and one with plenty of accessible investments for U.S. investors. Heavy on marquee Chinese online retail names, such as Alibaba, the Global X MSCI China Consumer Discretionary ETF (NYSEARCA:CHIQ) is one of the best ETFs for investors looking to tap the world’s largest online retail market.
CHIQ is an ETF for tactical investors to consider because China’s online retail market is larger and growing faster than the comparable U.S. market. There are more Chinese internet users than there are people in the U.S. and many Chinese shoppers are accustomed to purchasing goods online or on mobile devices, creating significant opportunity for retailers there without the need to open capital-sapping brick-and-mortar stores.
While it has been more volatile, an expected trait of Chinese stocks, CHIQ is beating the domestic XLY by 440 basis points over the past three years. Investors should dismiss CHIQ. The fund has a track record nearing a decade and over $170 million in assets under management.
CHIQ could also be a way to play any thaw in the ongoing U.S./China trade tensions. Consumer spending in China is recovering from tariff-related hits, but it is not all the way back to pre-tariff levels. If the two economic heavyweights can work out trade differences, CHIQ could rally.
As of this writing, Todd Shriber does not own any of the aforementioned securities.