January was a tricky month for equities due in large part to the emergence and subsequent spread of the coronavirus in the back half of the month. However, that headline risk didn't prevent investors from getting tactical with industry and sector exchange traded funds in the first month of the year.
Investors added $4 billion to industry and sector ETFs last month, CFRA Research Director of ETF & Mutual Fund Research Todd Rosenbluth said in a Tuesday note.
Here are three prominent examples of industry and sector ETFs that investors embraced in significant fashion in January.
Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF)
There could be a variety of reasons why the Financial Select Sector SPDR (NYSE: XLF), the largest ETF dedicated to this sector, was an inflows leader in January.
XLF “gathered approximately $800 million of net inflows in January,” said Rosenbluth. “The ETF owns the 67 financial stocks in the S&P 500 using a market-cap weighted approach and benefited from optimism ahead of and during recently released fourth-quarter earnings. Many of the ETF’s top constituents reported strong results, according to CFRA equity analysts.”
The array of financial services earnings reports coupled with the sector's domestic focus and its status as a value destination were likely among the reasons investors flocked to XLF to start the year.
Vanguard Information Technology ETF (VGT)
When an ETF allocates 34.5% of its weight to Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), as the Vanguard Information Technology ETF (NYSE: VGT) did at the end of last year, it's bound to lure investors.
Investors allocated $560 million to VGT last month and strong earnings reports from its two largest components helped the cause.
“AAPL’s EPS beat the consensus forecast by $0.45 as sales increased more than we expected on high demand for iPhones and wearable devices,” said Rosenbluth. “Meanwhile, MSFT’s EPS beat of $0.19 was aided by Office 365 Commercial and Azure cloud.”
iShares U.S. Home Construction ETF (ITB)
Helped by some strong housing data, the iShares U.S. Home Construction ETF (CBOE:ITB), an industry ETF, saw January inflows of $340 million.
“The ETF is highly concentrated in the household durables industry (67% of assets), primarily invested in homebuilding companies,” said Rosenbluth.
The analyst has Overweight ratings on three of the ETFs mentioned.
Disclosure: The author owns shares of XLF.