Exchange-traded funds offer a convenient way to invest in sectors or niches that interest you. If you expect companies focusing on timber, paper, and packaging to thrive once the housing market starts to pick up, the iShares S&P Global Timber & Forestry ETF
ETFs often sport lower expense ratios than their mutual fund cousins. The iShares ETF's expense ratio -- its annual fee -- is a relatively low 0.48%.
This ETF has performed reasonably, but it's also very young, with just a few years on the books. It outperformed the S&P 500 in 2009 and 2010, but it's badly lagging the index so far this year. As with most investments, of course, we can't expect outstanding performances in every quarter or year. Investors with conviction need to wait for their holdings to deliver.
With a low turnover rate of 23%, this fund isn't frantically and frequently rejiggering its holdings, as many funds do.
What's in it?
Several of this ETF's components made strong contributions to its performance over the past year. Timber REIT Rayonier
Other companies didn't add as much to the ETF's returns last year, but could have an effect in the years to come. Weyerhaeuser
The big picture
Demand for lumber and paper isn't going away anytime soon. A well-chosen ETF can grant you instant diversification across any industry or group of companies -- and make investing in and profiting from it that much easier.