This ETF Makes IPOs Fashionable

Italy's top fashion houses -- Versace, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo -- are often rumored to be considering IPOs. Meanwhile, the number of companies already in line to go public is up roughly 25% year over year. But just because IPOs are in fashion, in one sense or another, that doesn't guarantee that they'll reap investors easy money -- some, like Vonage (NYSE: VG  ) , tank spectacularly. For Fools willing to bear the risks, a new ETF makes it easier to get a piece of the IPO market.

IPO index
Regardless of the occasional IPO bomb, the average new issue this year had a total return of 13%, as reported on Renaissance Capital's IPOhome.com. If you want to get in on some of this action, but don't want to pick individual stocks, the First Trust IPOX-100 Index Fund (AMEX: FPX  ) ETF gives you exposure to a pool of recent IPO's, for a moderate 0.60% expense ratio. At the end of June 2007, the fund was up 11.58% -- not that far off from the average IPO return.

FPX tracks the U.S. IPOX-100 Index, which includes the 100 largest, typically best-performing, and most liquid IPOs in the U.S. The rules-based index measures the average performance of U.S. IPOs during the first 1,000 trading days, with index constituents selected based on quantitative screens. Since companies can be added to the index at their seventh trading day upon going public, and may stay in for four years, expect an investment in FPX to be very different from an IPO buy-and-flip trading strategy.

Not yet dot-com deja vu
Today's market differs from the late '90s, when some companies were valued almost entirely on the number of hits their websites received. Of course, before the market got to that point, many IPOs doubled (or better) for their new shareholders. That kind of performance can still happen in today's market.

FPX is concentrated in three sectors: financial, consumer-products, and IT stocks. Financial firms compose 24% of the fund, while consumer discretionary stocks are 23%, and IT comes in at 22%. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) is the largest stock holding at 10.4%, Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  ) comes in next at 7.5%, and Viacom (NYSE: VIA -B  ) rounds out the top three at 5.6%. None of these stocks come to mind as recent offerings, so they seem odd choices an IPO fund. This is further notice that FPX can hold onto its investments for several years. In the case of Google, that's been a good thing.

Markets rule
As long as the market is healthy, companies can bring new IPOs to market, and investors, like fashionistas in Paris or Milan, will flock to the newest offerings. When the market inevitably reaches a frothy peak and plunges, the IPO window will slam shut, leaving little action in this arena. Right now, IPOs seem to be in a sweet spot, with investors demanding offerings as fast as companies can get their shares to market. How long that popularity will last this time is uncertain, but FPX offers interested investors one of the easiest ways to participate.

Fool contributor Zoe Van Schyndel lives in Miami and enjoys the sunshine and variety of the Magic City. She does not own any of the funds or securities mentioned in this article. Time Warner is a Stock Advisor pick. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is always publicly offered.


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