Exchange-traded funds offer a convenient way to invest in sectors or niches that interest you. If you'd like to add some IT stocks (those heavily involved in information technology) to your portfolio but don't have the time or expertise to hand-pick a few, the Fidelity MSCI Information Technology ETF (NYSEMKT:FTEC) could save you a lot of trouble. Instead of trying to figure out which stocks will perform best, you can use this exchange-traded fund to invest in lots of IT stocks simultaneously.
The IT field is especially promising, given the ongoing spread of technology and its continuous innovation. The IT stocks in this ETF are varied, focusing on computing hardware, software, and services, and ranging from chips to fiber to selling platforms and business analysis. Some of them offer attractive dividend yields as well as likely stock-price appreciation.
The ETF's basics
ETFs often sport lower expense ratios than their mutual fund cousins. This ETF, focused on IT stocks, sports an expense ratio -- an annual fee -- of 0.12%. The ETF is too young to have a meaningful track record, and it's fairly small, too -- so if you're thinking of buying, beware of possibly large spreads between its bid and ask prices. Consider using a limit order if you want to buy in.
A closer look at EMC
EMC is a storage giant, positioned to profit from the rapidly growing cloud-computing and Big Data arenas. It holds an 80% ownership stake in virtualization specialist VMware, too, and has made some significant acquisitions recently, such as storage software developer ScaleIO and flash equipment maker DSSD.
EMC initiated a dividend last year, upped it by 15% this year, and now yields 1.7%. It has also been engaging in sizable share repurchases. Its stock is looking appealing, with a forward P/E of 12 -- roughly half its five-year average -- but EMC is not without its risks. Analyst Katy Huberty at Morgan Stanley recently noted the threat of software-driven storage. Indeed, EMC's revenue and market share has been slipping in total disk storage systems, though it does retain its leadership in the industry. But EMC has invested in storage software, too, and has many initiatives that could pay off well in the future, such as its RSA Security business and its Pivotal platform, which has been likened to "an OS for the cloud." Indeed, in its first quarter, Pivotal revenue jumped 41%, while emerging storage revenue surged 81%.
Both revenue and earnings growth rates have been slowing in recent years, but still, EMC's top line has been steadily increasing. The company's major information infrastructure division is seeing top-line shrinkage, but there's a lot to be hopeful about. EMC sports more than $5 billion in annual free cash flow, and is building its presence in a variety of promising and fast-growing arenas.
A closer look at Corning
Corning is a glass specialist with a history that goes back to before the Civil War. It's not some quaint relic, though, as its wares are used in smartphones, large-screen TVs, and fiber-optic networks. It has struggled some in recent years, but its stock has surged over the past two years, and its annual average gain over the past 30 years approaches 10%.
Its Gorilla Glass is installed in more than 2 billion devices across some 500 product lines, and it has been expanding into the automotive and architectural markets. There's a little problem that many are worried about, though: It looks like the much-anticipated iPhone 6 and other new devices might feature sapphire glass, which is even stronger than Gorilla Glass and is made by other companies. That's certainly not good news for Corning, but it's also not the end of the world, as Gorilla Glass doesn't make up the bulk of Corning's business. The company has many irons in the fire, including a deal with Intel to make ultrafast fiber-optic cables.
Also, sapphire glass isn't likely to be featured in huge TVs anytime soon (unless sapphire prices fall quickly), and a single large-screen TV display uses a lot more glass than a smartphone or even a tablet. (Many smartphone screens are getting larger, too, using more glass.)
Another concern for Corning is that sales of large-screen TVs haven't been booming lately -- though some reports from around the world point to a boost due to World Cup viewing. Management expects that growth rates will remain modest this year but that high-def sets will likely drive stronger growth in coming years. As TVs grow ever larger, too, each will require more glass.
Meanwhile, in the face of its challenges, Corning isn't standing still. It has developed a stronger, thinner glass ("Willow glass"), for example, which can be curved, and which could prove useful to the solar energy industry, among others. Its performance isn't terrible, either, with first-quarter revenue jumping 26% year over year and EPS advancing 7%.
Corning's dividend yield of 1.8% is appealing, especially since it has doubled in just three years. The company has also been rewarding shareholders by aggressively buying back billions of dollars' worth of shares, which has helped boost earnings per share. But Corning's P/E ratio near 18, well above its five-year average of 11, suggests it's not quite a screaming buy at recent levels. Investors might want to keep an eye out for pullbacks or add it to watch lists.
The big picture
It makes sense to consider adding some IT stocks to your portfolio. You can do so easily via an ETF. Alternatively, you might simply investigate an ETF focused on IT stocks and then cherry-pick from its holdings after doing some research on your own.
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Selena Maranjian owns shares of Corning and Intel. The Motley Fool recommends Corning, Intel, and VMware. The Motley Fool owns shares of Corning, EMC, Intel, and VMware. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.