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Exchange-traded funds offer a convenient way to invest in sectors or niches that interest you. If you'd like to add some big, technology-heavy stocks to your portfolio, the Direxion Nasdaq-100 Equal Weight Index ETF (NYSEMKT: QQQE ) 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.
ETFs often sport lower expense ratios than their mutual fund cousins. The Nasdaq-100 ETF's expense ratio -- its annual fee -- is a relatively low 0.35%. The fund is very 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 is too new to have a sufficient track record to assess. 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.
Why Nasdaq-100 and equal-weighting?
Nasdaq-100 stocks offer the benefits of large-cap status, which can provide a bit more stability than small caps, and they're often in rapidly changing and growing industries, as well. Equal weighting is a sensible way to structure an index, as it doesn't let the biggest companies overly influence the index's returns, when the smaller ones, which might be able to grow faster, are left less powerful.
More than a handful of big, technology-heavy companies had strong performances over the past year. Seagate Technology (NASDAQ: STX ) surged 52%. Despite that, with a P/E ratio recently below 5, it's still a seemingly cheap stock. It's been whacked by the decline of the PC, but there's still hope as cloud computing takes off and requires storage, and if solid-state drives grow in demand. Some don't like the prospects for Seagate's main drive business, though, and think Seagate is cheap, but not that attractive.
Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX ) jumped 48%, as it looks to expand the application of its promising cystic fibrosis drug, Kalydeco. Vertex recently entered into a deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb to pursue a treatment for Hepatitis C.
Micron Technology (NASDAQ: MU ) gained 41%, with bulls seeing growth in tablets and smartphones driving demand for memory chips. The stock soared to a 52-week high recently, when Micron posted its second-quarter earnings. Bulls liked the report, seeing lower costs and rising margins hinting at a return to profitability soon. Micron's purchase of Japanese manufacturer Elpida seems promising, boosting its capacity and its relationship with Apple. Bears worry about Micron losing market share, though.
Other companies didn't do as well last year, but could see their fortunes change in the coming years. Nuance Communications (NASDAQ: NUAN ) , a speech-recognition software specialist, slid 10%. Many had expected the health-care field to offer great new opportunity for the company, but now, some worry about competitors in that field, while others don't like its growth-by-acquisition strategy. With a forward P/E below 12, the stock seems intriguing. Carl Icahn agrees, having amassed a sizable stake in the company.
The big picture
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.
Speech recognition is yet another nascent technology set to explode with the rise of tablets and smartphones, and no company is better poised to benefit from this coming boom than Nuance Communications. However, this growth story doesn't come without risks, too. The Motley Fool recently published a premium research report to break down what investors interested in Nuance absolutely have to understand before investing, so click here now to grab your copy today.