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April 17, 2012 at 06:00 AM EDT
Will Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) Keep Driving Technology ETFs Higher?
Despite the recent selloff, shares of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL ) have skyrocketed 48% in the first quarter, dwarfing the 12% gain posted by the S&P 500. Apple's astonishing rise has also helped to underpin the Nasdaq Composite , which gained nearly 19% in the first quarter -- its strongest showing since 1991. But that's not the only place to experience the "Apple Effect." Many investors who own technology ETFs -- which hold almost 4% of all Apple shares outstanding -- were rewarded with even better returns. For instance, the Vanguard Information Technology ETF (NYSE: VGT ) was up 20.85% in the first quarter. Even better, the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Technology Index Fund (NYSE: IYW ), was up 21.77%, thanks in part to Apple. Now the question is: Can Apple's momentum continue to drive technology ETFs higher? To continue reading, please click here...
Despite the recent selloff, shares of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) have skyrocketed 48% in the first quarter, dwarfing the 12% gain posted by the S&P 500.

Apple's astonishing rise has also helped to underpin the Nasdaq Composite, which gained nearly 19% in the first quarter -- its strongest showing since 1991.

But that's not the only place to experience the "Apple Effect."

Many investors who own technology ETFs -- which hold almost 4% of all Apple shares outstanding -- were rewarded with even better returns.

For instance, theVanguard Information Technology ETF (NYSE: VGT) was up 20.85% in the first quarter.

Even better, the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Technology Index Fund (NYSE: IYW), was up 21.77%, thanks in part to Apple.

Now the question is: Can Apple's momentum continue to drive technology ETFs higher?

Is Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) Too Big? Apple, the world's largest company with a market cap closing in on $600 billion, has grown so large that the stock accounts for almost 20% of some of the ETFs tracking the technology sector.

For example, Apple represents 18.7% of the Select Sector Technology SPDR (NYSE:XLK), which holds about $9.8 billion in assets overall.

Some analysts are warning that tying your fate so heavily to one investment could be extremely hazardous to your financial health.

"This astonishing public valuation has had some unexpected effects...chief among them is the risk of overconcentration, as a great many indices and the ETFs that track them are weighted by market cap," said Dave Fry at ETF Digest.

In fact, many investors are concerned that Apple's amazing performance is pushing the whole market up.

According to data compiled by Bloomberg News, the Cupertino, CA-based company has surged 653% since March 9, 2009, accounting for 8% of the S&P's 103% surge.

Humming Along Without Apple Inc. But while Apple's influence is one of the largest ever by a single stock, the broader market would still be humming right along without it.

Fact is, the S&P 500 would have nearly doubled even without Apple.

And even if the tech giant's meteoric first quarter rise is excluded, the S&P still would have jumped by 10.4%, its best start since 1998, according to Bloomberg.

"The rally has been much more than Apple," said Howard Ward, a money manager at Gamco Investors Inc. who helps oversee $36 billion, told Bloomberg. "Apple no doubt has added some sparkle to the technology sector, but all market sectors have risen."

Although it's viewed somewhat differently, the surge in tech stocks in 2012 may remind some investors of the dot.com boom, when the technology sector also led the whole market higher.

Mobile computing is everywhere. Cloud computing, text messaging and social media dominate the landscape.

But this tech boom isn't being led by the Internet stocks that left baby-boomers holding the bag at the turn of the millennium.

After Apple, the top 10 holdings for the four biggest ETFs include household names like Microsoft Inc. (NASDAQ: MSFT), Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC), and International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM).

All are surging on the strength of new spending by corporations rebounding from the recent financial meltdown.

"Tech firms had come out of this recession enjoying double-digit growth in technology investments from corporations...there are still reasons to be confident about longer-term trends favoring tech firms," according to analyst Robert Goldsborough of Morningstar.

Technology ETFs: Perfect for Investors A large weighting of one stock in an ETF, such as Apple, isn't good or bad, it's just important to know.

Besides giving you an efficient way to get quick, broad exposure to the sector, ETFs are especially suited to the technology market.

They are easy to trade and you don't have to pin all your hopes on one stock, even if Apple is a large part of the portfolio.

One thing to think about is whether you want to own Apple itself -- or the entire sector with a dose of Apple.

Matthew Hougan, President of ETF Analytics, says investors who are thinking about using ETFs to play the technology boom should ask themselves what they are really buying into.

"Is it the technology renaissance? The mobile device boom? Or Apple's specific creativity, brand and ability to execute?" asked Hougan.

If the answer is yes to one of the first two, ETFs are a good way to play it. However, if it's just a yes to the last question, then just buy Apple stock itself, Hougan says.

But with or without Apple, technology ETFs are likely headed higher.

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Tags: Apple Inc., Apple stock, Nasdaq: AAPL, tech stocks, technology etfs
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