A Look Ahead: This Week's ETFs to Watch
Last week was another fine one for U.S. stocks as the broader market fought off an array of data points that can only be considered mixed at best to again close higher. With last week's 1.4 percent pop, the S&P 500 is now up 0.8 percent this month and has soared 2.8 percent since April. Still, there are causes for concern as the often ominous month of May lurks around the corner.
On Friday, the Commerce Department said U.S. GDP grew 2.5 percent in the first quarter, missing the consensus estimate of 3% growth. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Survey of consumer confidence fell 2.8 percent to 76.4 in April. That reading is the same as April 2012. Economists expected a reading of 73.5.
Then again, the earnings flow looks decent. Profit at S&P 500 companies gained 1.1 percent in the first three months of the year, according to analysts' projections compiled by Bloomberg. In the prior week, the projection called for a 1.1 percent drop.
Indeed, the week ahead has plenty to offer on the earnings front, but global central banks (who else?) will likely decide how markets perform this week. Here are a few of the ETFs to trade this week.
ProShares UltraShort Euro (NYSE: EUO)
The inclusion of the ProShares UltraShort Euro on this week's list is by no means a surprise and not just because the European Central Bank meets on May 2. Over the weekend, Iceland's center-right opposition party came out on top in the country's parliamentary elections, ousting rivals that pushed for European Union membership.
In other words, Icelanders just voted against the euro. Then there is the anti-euro party that is gaining strength in Germany, which is becoming a thorn in the side of Chancellor Angela Merkel. In advance of the ECB meeting Thursday, Eurozone unemployment data is due out Tuesday. Already at a record high of 12 percent, economists see no signs of early relief.
Despite all the negative factors, the euro has remained persistently strong, making it difficult for the region's export economies to mount a legitimate recovery. The ECB should lower interest rates. Whether or not that happens is a different story.
Health Care Select Sector SPDR (NYSE: XLV)
Of the 271 S&P 500 companies that have already delivered quarterly results, less than 44 percent have topped analysts' revenue forecasts, well below the 62 percent average since 2002 and the 52 percent rate for the last four quarters, according to Thomson Reuters.
That is relevant to XLV because Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and Merck (NYSE: MRK) both step into the earnings confessional this week. The Dow components combine for nearly 20 percent of the weight in what has been one 2013's top-performing sector funds.
Also of relevance to XLV investors is news that Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD) and Bristol-Myers (NYSE: BMY) should be in play on reports that a combination of Gilead's sofosbuvir with Bristol's daclatasvir, hepatitis C drug cocktail, cured all 41 patients in a trial, Bloomberg reported.
The thing is Gilead wants to go it alone when it comes to hepatitis C treatments. Both stocks are top-10 XLV holdings.
PowerShares Dynamic Food & Beverage Portfolio (NYSE: PBJ)
The PowerShares Dynamic Food & Beverage Portfolios once toiled in obscurity, but now the ETF has $235 million in assets under management. PBJ has flourished this year for at least two reasons: Investors' thirst for defensive sectors and the theory that the ETF is home to Warren Buffett's next food industry takeover target.
Do not forget that PBJ is also chock full of high return on equity stocks. PBJ is up nearly eight percent since it was highlighted as an ideal way to get exposure to multiple Buffett targets. The good news is this ETF does not need takeovers to march higher. Investors have already shown a proclivity for defense names and that theme will continue to boost PBJ.
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