ETFs Take a Bite Out of Apple

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) pushed past $700 a share this week as hype surrounding its iPhone 5 gave the strong-performing stock an extra boost.  Pre-orders of the new device exceeded 2 million in the first 24 hours, doubling the record set by the iPhone 4S just one year ago.

“IPhone 5 sales are almost mania,” said Peter Misek, Jefferies & Co. managing director & senior equity research analyst.  “We expect Apple to sell approximately 8 million this weekend and 10 million before the end of the month.”

The iPhone is the company’s top-selling product since its debut 5 year ago, accounting for approximately two-thirds of its profit.  High demand for Apple’s most important revenue driver is fueling investors’ appetite for the world’s most valuable company.

But not all investors looking to bet on Apple’s success can afford to buy shares at $700 a pop. Alternative investments offer retail investors and the general public a cheaper way to play one of the top-performing stocks.

“ETFs are attractive investments because they hedge against risks,” said Scott Freeze, Street One Financial President. “If Apple disappoints, you’re hedged.  It’s a safe play.”

Apple dominates many popular exchange-traded funds. Broad-based technology ETFs like the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Technology Sector Index Fund (NYSE:IYW) and the Technology Select Sector SPDR (NYSE:XLK) allocate more than 20% of their respective holdings to the tech giant.

“The funds with Apple accounting for at least one-fifth of its underlying baskets will really move with the stock,” said Freeze. “But at the same time you’re diversified through other products so you benefit from broad market rallies.”

The Dow Jones U.S. Technology Index Fund (NYSE:IYW) is an affordable way to gain significant exposure to Apple.  IYW has a 25% weighting in Apple and costs about a tenth of an Apple share. The Technology Select Sector SPDR (NYSE:XLK)   allocates about 20% of its holdings to Apple and is even cheaper than IYW, trading around $31 per share. Both funds are up more than 22% since January 1.

And Apple’s impact doesn’t stop with the technology sector heavyweights. Currently, 10 ETFs allocate at least 10% of their holdings to Apple. IShares Morningstar Large Growth Index (NYSE:JKE), which has a 15% holding in Apple, also allocates a large portion of its portfolio to consumer cyclical and consumer defensive names. Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM) and McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) are among the fund’s top 10 holdings.

“Given their diversity and high liquidity, ETFs are an attractive choice,” said Freeze. “They’re as easy as buying Apple itself without having to pay $700 per share. The downside risks are very limited.”