Since the start of 2020, the Global X Cloud Computing Fund (NASDAQ:CLOU) is down by 9%.
In a market infected with fear thanks to the coronavirus from China, that counts as a win.
CLOU had been outperforming the S&P 500 during January and February. The divergence has sharpened since things got serious on Feb. 19. Since then, CLOU is down 18%, but the S&P is down 27%.
Is This Still One of the Best ETFs to Consider?
CLOU is designed to track the INDXX USA Cloud Computing Index. This index encompasses companies that are actively involved in the cloud computing industry. Most are applications sold as services.
The largest holding of CLOU is Shopify (NYSE:SHOP), an e-commerce application that was one of the market’s best performers in 2018 and 2019. Over the last three years it rose from less than $70 per share to a recent high of almost $600 before falling back to its present level of $415.
Many CLOU components provide services for other cloud companies. An example is Zscaler (NASDAQ:ZS), a cloud security company whose shares are up 23% so far in 2020. Zscaler has been warning about risks in the “shadow IoT” world, the laptops and phones used by workers at home.
Not everything CLOU touches has turned to gold. Among the losers so far are Paycom Software (NYSE:PAYC), which provides cloud-based human resources applications. Paycom has been hit hard as companies have moved to lay off workers, and the shares are down 20% so far in 2020.
CLOU doesn’t just feature cloud application providers.
Akamai Technologies (NASDAQ:AKAM), originally created as a Content Delivery Network in 1998, now offers a host of security and connectivity solutions for carriers. Its software works inside the network, invisible to most users. Its customers include service providers as well as enterprises. Akamai shares are up nearly 3% so far this year.
Another big holding is Digital Realty Trust (NYSE:DLR), a real estate investment trust (REIT) that owns data centers. These are the buildings, filled with computers and networking gear, through which enterprises connect with the cloud and clouds connect to each other. REITs are organized to build with debt and pay income back to shareholders. DLR’s dividend of $4.48 per share last year yielded 3.34%. Since the start of the year, DLR shares are up 13%.
Proofpoint (NASDAQ:PFPT) focuses on protecting e-mail, both the messages themselves and the mailboxes they rest in. This has become the most expensive problem in all of cybercrime, the company says. Since the start of 2020, however, Proofpoint shares are down by 14%, because it has been delaying profits in favor of growth. That’s an approach that is in bad taste right now.
The Bottom Line on CLOU
I had no idea a global pandemic was around the corner when I chose to recommend CLOU late last year.
I was just looking to win the contest. It seemed to me that remote work, and cloud applications, were fated to grow fast. Most CLOU holdings are growth companies, not dividend payers, and that aggressive approach will usually win.
That puts cloud applications at the center of their growth curve. Such companies have ample pricing power, limited competition and innovative solutions to offer. The way to growth is always on the leading edge.
So, it seems, is the way to safety in a panic.
Dana Blankenhorn has been a financial journalist since 1978. His latest book is Technology’s Big Bang: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow with Moore’s Law, essays on technology available at the Amazon Kindle store. Follow him on Twitter at @danablankenhorn. As of this writing he owned shares in DLR.