In the fast-growing ETF world, you'll find a lot of new offerings that are just plain boring. But even as many competitors introduce products that look virtually identical to already-trading ETFs with substantial popularity, a few innovative ETF shops are at least taking a crack at giving investors something new.
One such ETF company is Global X, which launched a new fund yesterday. Although the niche ETFs may not be useful for the majority of investors, the ideas behind them show a true desire to advance the ball and make ETFs something more than just run-of-the-mill index tracking investments.
Fighting to feed the world
The new ETF from Global X focuses on fertilizer companies. The Global X Fertilizers/Potash ETF, with the cute ticker symbol SOIL, owns nearly 30 companies directly related to the fertilizer industry.
With food commodity prices having been at high levels for quite a while, fertilizer giants PotashCorp
Getting exactly what you want
The new fertilizer ETF isn't the only example of a Global X fund that aims to cut out extraneous stocks from industries. The company's Global X Pure Gold Miners ETF targets mining stocks that get the vast majority of their sales from producing gold rather than other metals. For investors who are truly seeking to pin down a particular investing strategy, that can be a crucial advantage.
The idea that gold stocks would produce gold may seem like a no-brainer, but some things that seem obvious turn out not to be true. When you look at the New York Stock Exchange's index of gold miners, you'll quickly realize that many stocks have almost no gold production at all. For Silver Wheaton
Yet at the same time that Global X's ETFs clear out investments you don't really want, they also make room for more of what you do want. For instance, looking at the company's Global X Auto ETF, you'll find the obvious choices like Ford well represented near the top of the holdings list.
But you'll also find car companies like Peugeot, Isuzu, and Mazda -- companies with well-known brands but which have been almost forgotten by the capital markets. In addition, you'll get shares of Tata Motors
Critics of the Global X approach have reasonable points. Making such targeted investments carries the risk of inexperienced investors ending up with undiversified portfolios. Only using Global X ETFs for your entire portfolio would be a much riskier approach than owning some broad-market funds.
In addition, Global X ETF expenses are on the high side. While ETFs covering the entire stock market carry expenses of 0.1% or less, the three Global X funds discussed above carry expenses in the 0.6% to 0.7% range.
Finally, these funds will need to grow in order to survive. None of them is more than a few months old, but with assets below $3 million each, an asset base generating around $20,000 in annual revenue for Global X isn't going to keep the doors open.
A for effort
Despite those concerns, it's good to see an ETF company going beyond the simplistic approach that many ETF providers seem to have. That's no guarantee that Global X's funds will succeed, and they may not be appropriate for your investing strategy. But if you're looking to make a concentrated bet on a particularly narrow area, take a look at the company's ETFs and see if they have one to fit your needs.
And if you want some more good ideas on ETFs that can help you get the results you want, don't miss out on the Motley Fool's special free report on ETFs. You'll find three great funds that won't hurt your wallet but will boost your returns.
If Fool contributor Dan Caplinger could join the X-Men, he'd want to be Iceman. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Ford.
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 Fool's disclosure policy has all the X-tras.