Consumer discretionary and retail ETFs have been pleasant surprises in 2012. Funds such as the Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR (XLY) and the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XLY) have shaken off macroeconomic concerns ranging from the Eurozone's sovereign debt crisis to slack employment data here in the U.S. to deliver gains in the neighborhood of 16 percent.
Impressive, but XLY and XRT are not the only names investors should be aware of when it comes to retail ETFs. Given the size of XLY and XRT, it is easy to understand why these funds command the bulk of the attention when it comes to ETFs tracking retailers, but there are some other retail funds investors may want to become familiar with.
Here are some retail ETFs brokers everywhere probably are not telling their clients about:
Market Vectors Retail ETF (RTH) The Market Vectors Retail ETF does lead an entirely anonymous existence as the fund has been on the receiving end of some bullish praise this year. Still, the fund is nowhere near the size of XRT.
Wal-Mart (WMT) accounts for almost 11 percent of RTH and until recently, that stock has really been helping drive the ETF's returns this year. The bulk of RTH is concentrated in its top-10 holdings and that is not a bad thing as eight of those stocks are within four percent or less of their 52-week highs. CVS Caremark (CVS) and Lowe's (LOW) are the exceptions.
RTH is attempting to breakout and will likely need several strong volume closes above $44 to confirm further upside.
PowerShares Retail Portfolio (PMR) The PowerShares Retail Portfolio has enjoyed a solid year, returning almost 15 percent. However, the fund has average daily volume of less than 40,000 shares. That makes it easy for those that erroneously fuss over ETF volume to gloss over this fund.
Nearly 35 percent of PMR's weight is allocated to small-caps and that helps explain the ETF's elevated valuation. PMR trades at 18.3 its constituents' earnings and at a price/book ratio of nearly 3.4.
Direxion Daily Retail Bull 3X Shares (RETL) There has been much ado about ETF closures recently and one of the funds headed to the ETF graveyard is the Direxion Daily Retail Bear 3X Shares (RETS). RETL, the bullish equivalent, has escaped the chopping block.
RETL provides three times the daily performance of the Russell 1000 Retail Index. That index is dominated by companies considered to be "hypermarkets" or super centers, home improvement retailers, apparel retailers, e-commerce firms and general stores. RETL is up 78.1 percent year-to-date, but an expense ratio of 0.95 percent reminds investors this is not a long-term instrument.
EGShares Consumer Services GEMS ETF (VGEM) The EGShares Consumer Services GEMS ETF is the most under-the-radar play of the funds on this list and volume nuts will not be a fan of this fund with its ADV of less than 950 shares. That creates a vexing situation for investors.
VGEM does not trade everyday, but it has jumped 11.1 percent this year and provides multi-country exposure to local emerging markets retailers. The biggest risk to VGEM is not volume. Rather it is an almost 29 percent weight to South Africa. A retail ETF heavy on South Africa, which has an unemployment rate north of 20 percent, may not be appealing to many investors.
Fortunately, Mexico and Chile combine for over 32 percent of VGEM's weight and those are two of the more desirable emerging markets to be involved with at the moment.
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