With the market down so much, even losing funds look good if they haven't lost very much. The Biotech HOLDR
HOLDRs enable investors to purchase a slice of the market in a number of specific sectors, from broadband companies to regional banks. Structured as a trust, the Biotech HOLDR holds common stock of companies in the biotechnology industry.
Unlike some sector exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that are well-diversified with dozens of securities, Biotech HOLDR has nearly 95% of its assets in just five stocks: Genentech
- Year-to-Date Return: 2.5%
- Expense Ratio: none; $0.08/share custody fee
- Assets: $1.2 billion
Fund prospects and risks
A HOLDR is a basket of stocks just like an ETF. But there the similarity ends, as each HOLDR is a static portfolio that doesn't change over time. The HOLDR is unmanaged and its component stocks do not vary. This is very different from most ETFs, which track indexes that adjust periodically due to rebalancing. If a stock is acquired, the index will often replace it, but the HOLDR will remove it and not replace it.
That means that over time, the HOLDR's portfolio can become more and more concentrated. Investors look to ETFs for their diversification benefits, yet with Biotech HOLDR, you are really not getting that benefit.
With a new president, there's potential for changes to the American health-care system. So investors should monitor the mood in Washington and make sure their portfolios are optimally positioned for any changes.
But remember that HOLDRs may not be the best tool for biotech investors. Don't get fooled into thinking this is just another sector ETF, as its unique structure makes it more like a concentrated five-stock fund. That level of concentration brings an unusually high degree of stock-specific risk, which most investors don't want. Although the strong performance of those five biotech stocks has led to good returns for Biotech HOLDR, it requires you to put your eggs into a pretty small basket.
Fool contributor Zoe Van Schyndel now lives in the Seattle area, where she enjoys the coffee and natural wonders. She does not own any of the funds or securities mentioned in this article. Biogen Idec is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.