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Exchange-traded funds offer a convenient way to invest in sectors or niches that interest you. If you expect the technology industry to thrive over time as our growing world population demands more and better high-tech products and services, the Guggenheim S&P 500 Equal Weight Technology ETF (NYSE: RYT ) could save you a lot of trouble. Instead of trying to figure out which companies will perform best, you can use this ETF to invest in lots of them simultaneously. Better still, this ETF holds each of its stocks in roughly equal proportion, instead of overweighting high-market-cap stocks, as many funds do.
ETFs often sport lower expense ratios than their mutual fund cousins. The Guggenheim ETF's expense ratio -- its annual fee -- is a relatively low 0.50%. The fund is 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.
This ETF has performed rather well, beating the S&P 500 over the past three and five years. 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 29%, this fund isn't frantically and frequently rejiggering its holdings, as many funds do.
More than a handful of tech-heavy companies had strong performances over the past year. Cloud computing and online content delivery specialist Akamai Technologies (Nasdaq: AKAM ) , for example, soared 54%, foiling those who doubted it. Akamai's successful cost cutting and the high demand for its cloud-computing infrastructure services have been powering recent growth -- and half a billion dollars spent buying back shares has also helped. Akamai has also been expanding into regions such as Latin America, where demand for its cloud services has been growing.
"Big Data" specialist Teradata (NYSE: TDC ) has jumped some 26% over the past year, and has been successfully fending off competitors such as IBM (NYSE: IBM ) and Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL ) . The company offers data warehousing solutions, among other things. Its revenue and earnings have been growing at double-digit rates over the past few years, and growth rates have been accelerating, too.
Glass and fiber-optics giant Corning (NYSE: GLW ) , up 21%, has suffered from weakness in the LCD panel market, but demand should inevitably pick up, boosting Corning's business. Meanwhile, Corning's Gorilla Glass has found a profitable home in millions of smartphones and tablets, which are selling briskly. The company has a promising new product, as well: Willow Glass, which is thin and -- get this -- flexible. Corning, too, has been upgraded by Wall Street analysts, partly on high expectations for the iPhone 5. In the meantime, the company has hiked its dividend by 20%, and has bought back nearly 2% of its shares recently.
Other companies didn't do as well last year, but could see their fortunes change in the coming years. BMC Software (Nasdaq: BMC ) gained only 9%, though much of that is tied to the possibility of the company being acquired. Reports are that BMC is looking into putting itself on the block, at least in part because of pressure from activist investor Elliott Associates, which recently owned more than 7% of the company. Some have been disenchanted with the company lately, citing flagging profitability and growth, and concerns over its competitive strength.
The big picture
Demand for technology 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.
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