Stocks finished a wild November in benign fashion on Friday as the the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average inched higher while the Nasdaq took a small loss. Those looking at the world through rose-colored glasses might be apt to note that the last trading day of November is traditionally a rough one for stocks. They might also be apt to note the first trading of December is historically a bullish day. That remains to be seen.
Of course what really matters is the fiscal cliff. The harsh reality is lawmakers have until the end of this month to avoid the dreaded, GDP-draining scenario or risk another U.S. recession. Unfortunately, the term that best describes the progress, or lack thereof, being made on the fiscal cliff front is stalemate. When that word is linked to Capitol Hill, Wall Street usually suffers. With that in mind, keep an eye on these ETFs this week.
iShares MSCI Brazil Index Fund (EWZ) Yes, U.S. equities will likely be beholden to U.S.-specific issues this week, but there is no getting around the fact that Brazilian stocks and EWZ have been struggling as of late. Last week, Barclays Capital forecast Brazilian GDP growth of just one percent this year.
That is far from what investors expect when taking on emerging markets risk. Another way of looking at Brazil's anemic growth rate is this: Why take the risk on EWZ when one can just own the SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) and get at least double the GDP growth out of the U.S. economy? If EWZ drops below $50, selling pressure could accelerate. Alternative idea: ProShares UltraShort Brazil (BZQ).
PowerShares S&P 500 Low Volatility ETF (SPLV) With fiscal cliff fears lingering and some international destinations, such as Brazil, being home to disappointing growth rates, a low volatility approach could pay dividends. Enter the PowerShares S&P 500 Low Volatility ETF. Over the past three months, SPLV has outperformed SPY by 15 basis points.
There is one risk with SPLV: Utilities exposure. The fund has an almost 31 percent allocation to that sector. Utilities names have struggled amid all the fiscal cliff chatter, until last week when the Utilities Select Sector SPDR (XLU) put in a sharp 3.6 percent rally. One has to wonder if that is too much too soon for embattled utilities names.
iShares MSCI China Index Fund (MCHI) While Brazilian growth continues to disappoint, China is showing signs of a rebound. These are more than just nascent signs. November's official manufacturing purchasing managers' index jumped to 50.6 from 50.2 in October, according to data released by China's National Bureau of Statistics on Saturday. The November reading is good for a seven-month high.
So why MCHI over the larger, more widely known iShares FTSE China 25 Index Fund (FXI)? Because MCHI has made good on the the prediction that it will outperform FXI. Over the past month, MCHI has outperformed FXI by 43 basis points.
Global X Social Media Index ETF (SOCL) Despite what appears to be a tricky environment for Groupon (GRPN) and Zynga (ZNGA), the Global X Social Media Index ETF has held up nicely in recent weeks. And in what would seem like a defiance of common logic, shares of Facebook (FB) have surged following the expiration of the company's most recent lockup period.
The performance of those three stocks over the past month has lifted SOCL by nearly 2.4 percent and that is better than double the gains offered by the PowerShares QQQ (QQQ) over the same period.
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