Warnings about leveraged ETFs are easy to find and deriding this sub-sector of the exchange-traded products universe has become something of a sport for some.
Some of the criticism is warranted and those critiques provide a segue to the most important point about leveraged ETFs: These are not long-term investment vehicles.
Issues of these products, such as ProShares and Direxion, highlight as much on their Web sites. Those are places traders new to leveraged ETFs should visit before jumping into these funds.
With all that in mind, the point here is examine a few leveraged ETFs that have the makings of excellent second-half trades. Emphasis on "trades." Let's get to those trades with the gentle reminder that no one should be holding leveraged ETFs, bullish or bearish funds, the way Warren Buffett holds onto shares of Coca-Cola (KO).
ProShares UltraShort Utilities (SDP) There are scores of leveraged sector ETFs that are popular. Examples include the Direxion Daily Financial Bull 3X Shares (FAS) and the ProShares UltraShort Oil & Gas (DUG), but investors may not be aware that they can establish a bearish, twice-leveraged view of utilities stocks.
Enter SDP, which could prove to be a worthwhile trade for the remainder of July. As has been noted, the Utilities Select Sector SPDR (XLU) is usually the worst-performing of the sector SPDR ETFs in the month of July. To be fair, factor in today's 1.5 percent and XLU is slightly higher on the month.
Investors should note SDP is not an inverse play on XLU. Rather, SDP seeks to deliver twice the daily inverse performance of the Dow Jones U.S. Utilities Index, the index tracked by the iShares U.S. Utilities ETF (IDU).
ProShares Short High Yield (SJB) We pointed out in early June that traders were finally discovering SJB, the lone inverse though not leveraged junk bond ETF. That article ran on June 4 and since then, the SPDR Barclays Junk Bond ETF (JNK) and the iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (HYG) are each down about three percent.
SJB is up just 1.3 percent over that same time, but the erosion of the long junk bond trade is gaining steam. Since the start of June, nearly $818 million has been pulled out of HYG, the ETF SJB is designed to be the inverse equivalent of.
Direxion Daily Brazil Bear 3X Shares (BRZS) There is substantial risk involved with the ProShares UltraShort MSCI Brazil (BZQ), the double-leveraged, bearish equivalent of the iShares MSCI Brazil ETF (EWZ). So to say the newly minted Direxion Daily Brazil 3X Shares is not for the faint of heart is an understatement.
Direxion introduced a bullish equivalent to BRZS, the Direxion Daily Brazil Bull 3X Shares (BRZU) in early April and with the myriad woes faced by Brazilian stocks, it is fair to say the timing of BRZU's debut was poor.
That means the opposite is true for BRZS. Data from Yahoo Finance indicate BRZS had more than doubled from early May through last Friday. If Brazilian stocks stay on their current dismal trajectory, BRZS is an alluring short-term trade.
Here is the dark side: EWZ is up about one percent today, but BRZS is down almost five percent. In theory, BRZS should only be down three percent if EWZ is up one percent.
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