Lithium ETF Easily Outshines Tesla, But That Shouldn't Be Surprising

Markets Benzinga

Give the Global X Lithium ETF (LIT) some credit. The lone exchange traded fund dedicated to lithium equities is shining while Elon Musk's Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA), arguably the most recognizable individual stock associated with lithium, is faltering.

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Year-to-date, LIT is up 22.2 percent while TSLA is lower by 8.5 percent. Much of the skepticism surrounding lithium stocks is being applied to Tesla and that company's ability to deliver a highly desirable product at an appealing price point.

Battery demand is important, but it isn't the only part of the lithium story.

"It is important to note that despite lithiums common association with batteries, over 60% of current lithium demand comes from industrial applications, such as glass, ceramics, lubricants, and casting powders, as demonstrated in the chart below. However, much of the expected demand growth and optimism for lithium comes from the battery segment," according to a Global X research piece.

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As the return data indicate, Tesla's impact on LIT is often overstated. Tesla is currently just 3.9 percent of LIT's weight, making the stock the ETF's 10th-largest holding. At 20.3 percent of LIT's lineup, FMC Corp (FMC) is more than quadruple the size of Tesla within the ETF. That is a good thing because shares of FMC are up 22.3 percent this year.

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Even with Tesla's well-documented struggles, investors are starting to respond to LIT as an alternative and, for now, a superior avenue to investing in the Lithium boom. When we last highlighted the ETF in late April, it had $56.2 million in assets under management, up from less than $40 million at the end of 2015. LIT now has over $68 million in assets under management.

Still, electric vehicles are seen as the biggest drivers, no pun intended, of lithium demand. That is to say, if all things remain equal and Tesla gets its act together, LIT's upside could be significant going forward.

"The biggest opportunity for lithium demand is expected to come from electric vehicles. According to Citi Research, an average electric car uses over 5,000 times more lithium than a mobile phone to power the vehicles range. Higher range electric cars, like the Tesla Model S, can use as much lithium as 10,000 smartphones. Therefore growth of the electric car market can have a significant impact on total lithium demand," notes Global X.

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