Although stock picking generates the most attention in this business, if you want a better chance of winning in the market, you should consider adding exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to your portfolio. Unlike betting on a single company to get the job done, ETFs represent a basket of investments, thereby giving you more chances to win.
To be sure, by spreading risk across several stocks, ETFs tend to mitigate both downside and upside. For instance, if you had to put all your money in a particular technology firm and it posted banner earnings, you’re likely in for a massive ride higher. However, exposure to several tech firms — some of which may not have posted positive financial results — will lower your profitability.
Nevertheless, it’s extremely difficult to always separate winners from losers. Even a company on a positive streak could end up faltering out of the blue, thereby imposing a shock to your portfolio. Plus, it’s much easier to pick high-reward-potential sectors than it is to find out which specific brand will outperform. Thus, ETFs afford you the opportunity to consistently benefit from market gains.
Importantly, investors must read the room. For instance, the benchmark S&P 500 index is up 20% on a year-to-date basis. While that’s impressive, there are legitimate concerns that the underlying bullishness is overdone. If so, you’ll want to shift more exposure to ETFs as opposed to single stocks since no one knows what will happen next.
And because of this uncertainty, you can cover more ground with sector funds than you can picking individual names. Here are some ETFs to consider adding to your portfolio.
- iShares Biotechnology ETF (NASDAQ:IBB)
- Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund (NYSEARCA:XLE)
- SPDR S&P Retail ETF (NYSEARCA:XRT)
- Vanguard Real Estate ETF (NYSEARCA:VNQ)
- US Global Jets ETF (NYSEARCA:JETS)
- Amplify Transformational Data Sharing ETF (NYSEARCA:BLOK)
- KraneShares Electric Vehicles and Future Mobility (NYSEARCA:KARS)
Finally, stock trading on margin — which has been on a record-breaking tear this year — has finally slowed down a bit in July of this year. While the metric is still at elevated levels, the rolling back of risk suggests that ETFs are relatively safer choices than individual stocks.
Best ETFs to Buy: iShares Biotechnology ETF (IBB)
Admittedly an obvious play due to the immediate impact from the novel coronavirus — and specifically the delta variant — iShares Biotechnology ETF is nevertheless a fund to consider if you’re thinking about profiting off this cynical catalyst. Indeed, throughout this pandemic, many, if not most analysts have been hawking individual companies that offer treatments and vaccines.
Of course, the problem here is that there will only be a few winners — basically, those that reach the finish line first. Therefore, trying to pick out individual sectors for Covid-19 plays is a risky endeavor. Instead, you should consider ETFs and IBB is among the best.
First, iShares Biotechnology has some of the biggest names in the battle against Covid in its top 10 holdings, including Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA), Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:REGN) and BioNTech (NASDAQ:BNTX). Second, IBB has been a consistent winner, not just during this crisis but in prior years as well.
However, prospective buyers should watch out for its expense ratio of 0.45%, which is only a hair below the category average of 0.47%.
Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLE)
With the push toward renewable energy solutions and the electrification of transportation, fossil fuels might seem a tad too anachronistic. While I understand the hesitation, investors should also recognize that fossil fuels are incredibly difficult to quit because of their high energy density relative to other sources.
In other words, you can take a gallon of gasoline and drive around 30 miles in a modern combustion car. Take the equivalent volume of electrons in an plug-in electric vehicle and you’re not going to get nearly the same range. That’s the power of fossil fuels and it could make Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund surprisingly relevant.
Actually, maybe it’s not so surprising. After all, we’re not going to replace our combustion cars with cleaner alternatives overnight. Thanks to the vaccine rollout and a slow, steady march to normal, vehicle miles traveled has spiked up from its April 2020 lows. The trend can continue moving higher, making XLE on of the ETFs to put on your radar.
Also worth mentioning is that its expense ratio is 0.12%. That’s well below the category average of 0.44%.
Best ETFs to Buy: SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT)
Watching various media reports, you’ll know that the U.S. has basically split itself into two camps: the vaccinated and unvaccinated. Although the focus is largely on the health implications of the split, there’s also brewing ideological conflict between the two.
I’m not going to take any sides here but I will say this: after being cooped up at home for so long, I can understand why millions of Americans have gotten fed up with the mitigation protocols and other safety measures. Given this powerful sentiment, I think it’s worthwhile to consider the SPDR S&P Retail ETF fund.
As you’ve probably read, retail revenge is a genuine phenomenon. That is, people who have been denied consumer opportunities — think going on that long-awaited vacation — are going to make up for lost time. Combined with stimulus checks and other government aid, retail-related ETFs can certainly benefit.
What I like about the XRT, though, is that its tied to a mixture of cyclical and secular companies, like Albertsons (NYSE:ACI), Carvana (NYSE:CVNA) and DoorDash (NYSE:DASH). In addition, its expense ratio of 0.35% is much lower than the sector average of 0.50%.
Vanguard Real Estate ETF (VNQ)
Easily one of the most contested economic segments in terms of trajectory debate is real estate. On one end, you have folks who say that housing prices can continue moving even higher due to low inventory and strong demand. But on the other end, critics argue that housing prices can only soar so much so quickly before they tumble.
Both sides make compelling arguments, which is why picking out individual stocks could become a binary affair: either a grand slam or a disaster. But with real estate ETFs, you can gain meaningful exposure while limiting your downside. And likely, your best option is the Vanguard Real Estate ETF.
Why VNQ? Primarily, the fund features stocks that indirectly tie to the housing boom. For instance, those who are rich enough to buy homes in this climate are likely to benefit businesses like American Tower (NYSE:AMT) and Simon Property Group (NYSE:SPG).
Also, VNQ advantages the baby boomer effect, with companies like Public Storage (NYSE:PSA), for those downsizing boomers, and Welltower (NYSE:WELL), for the boomers that I guess you don’t want to see anymore.
Best ETFs to Buy: US Global Jets ETF (JETS)
One of the riskiest ideas on this list of ETFs, US Global Jets nevertheless represents an intriguing proposition. As I mentioned earlier, retail revenge is a real phenomenon. Not only are people tired of the crackdowns on non-essential activities, they’re extra eager to make up for the lost experiences that could have been had during 2020.
Therefore, the idea of buying airliner-centric ETFs doesn’t seem like such a bad idea despite the public health crisis. However, picking out individual jetliners seems a tough task. JETS can help take the guesswork out of the process, covering a wide range of companies, from the majors to the discount carriers.
But before you book a flight with JETS, you should be aware that the sector has been on a downtrend since early June of this year. Moreover, air rage has taken over the skies apparently in the new normal, which can cause industry employees to question their career choice.
Also, if you do end up buying JETS, just be aware that the expense ratio is 0.60%, which is on the high side compared to other ETFs.
Amplify Transformational Data Sharing ETF (BLOK)
Without question nor hesitation, one of the most impressive sectors — if not the most impressive — is the cryptocurrency market. Once again, digital assets have captured the mainstream media’s attention. This time, though, institutional buyers moved in, driving multiple virtual currencies to astounding record highs.
And what’s good for cryptos is absolutely brilliant for blockchain miners. With the rewards for basically minting new coins higher than they’ve ever been, early bird investors who bought mining operators managed to haul off with remarkable profits. Now that the crypto sector has apparently woken up from its lull, some gamblers are ready to go at it again.
However, this is an intensely volatile sector. If you want exposure but don’t want to lose your shirt, you should consider crypto and mining-related ETFs like Amplify Transformational Data Sharing ETF. Featuring a well-rounded mix of companies like Square (NYSE:SQ), Coinbase (NASDAQ:COIN) and Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA), along with some riskier blockchain miners, you can potentially do well. And if things go awry, it won’t bury you.
Still, you got to take the good with the bad and in the case of BLOK, the expense ratio of 0.71% is sky high.
Best ETFs to Buy: KraneShares Electric Vehicles and Future Mobility (KARS)
As seemingly everyone keeps reminding me, electric vehicles are the future. What’s less discussed, though, is which brand will dominate that future. Almost like a Pavlovian response, I hear people saying Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA). You have to remember, Tesla might be setting the pace now, but it’s not guaranteed to do so 10 or 20 years down the line.
But if you believe that EVs will replace a great chunk of combustion cars a decade or so from today, then you might best profit from personal transportation-related ETFs like KraneShares Electric Vehicles and Future Mobility. By having exposure to EV manufacturers like Tesla and Nio (NYSE:NIO), investors don’t have to work themselves into a frenzy over a forward-looking guessing game.
Also, through the KARS ETF, you indirectly have equity in semiconductor firms helping to roll out the EV transition, such as Analog Device (NASDAQ:ADI) and NXP Semiconductors (NASDAQ:NXPI). Anyone who’s serious about EVs should consider adding this to their portfolio.
But like anything, there are pros and cons. While KARS has upside potential, its expense ratio of 0.70% is well above the category average of 0.48%.
On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare.