The 7 Most Deceiving ETF Names (FONE, ESR, COW)
With close to 1,500 exchange-traded products on the market today, there are bound to be a few that have names that are, shall we say, a tad misleading. Actually, this has been a problem for several years in the ETF universe. One example has been investors thinking that ownership of an ETF such as the SPDR Gold Shares (NYSE: GLD) and then the sale of those shares entitles them to delivery of physical gold.
That's probably more an example of investors not reading the fine print than GLD's name implying something it doesn't deliver on. Unfortunately, there are plenty of ETFs that have names that are grossly misleading. Here are some of the more egregious and entertaining deceiving ETF names.
US Oil Fund (NYSE: USO) The US Oil Fund's inclusion on this list will not shock anyone that is even remotely familiar with this ETF. USO is supposed to track the price of West Texas Intermediate crude, minus fees and expenses. It does so by investing in futures contracts and other derivatives, but since June of last year, spot WTI has sharply outperformed USO. That's a situation that has been seen time and time again over USO's lifespan and it explains why this is one of the most controversial and derided ETFs on the market today.
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Eastern Europe Index Fund (NYSE: ESR) The name of this ETF is deceiving, at least for those expecting diverse exposure to multiple Eastern European countries. With the name of this ETF, you'd think you might be getting some exposure, no matter how slight, to the likes of Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, at least one of the Balkans and maybe some decent Czech Republic exposure as well.
The reality is Czech Republic and Hungary combine for less than 8% of ESR's weight. This is a Russia ETF in hiding as that country accounts for almost 76% of the fund's weight. Luxembourg and the U.S. also earned small allocations in this ETF. Go figure.
Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (NYSE: VIG) We're not saying the Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF is a bad ETF. Quite the contrary. It's cheap and chock full of blue chip companies conservative investors love. That said, some folks might be thinking VIG features a great yield because "dividend" is in its name. In reality, VIG yields just 2%.
SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (NYSE: XHB) There is no denying the performance of the SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF has been stellar as of late. There's also denying that XHB's holdings indicate this fund is from a pure play on home builders.
For more exposure to home builder stocks, try the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Home Construction Index Fund (NYSE: ITB).
iPath DJ-UBS Livestock TR Sub-Index ETN (NYSE: COW) Despite its cute ticker, COW does hold some hogs futures contracts, but it is cattle futures that dominate this fund. So it can be inferred that this would be a great fund with which to exploit favorable supply/demand dynamics in the beef market, right? Wrong. Global beef demand is rising. Supply is declining. Yet COW has plunged 41% in the past five years.
First Trust ISE-Revere Natural Gas Index Fund (NYSE: FCG) We've beaten the drum on FCG plenty of times arguing that the ETF isn't as gassy as the name implies. Look at FCG's holdings. Almost all of them produce oil as well as gas and almost all of them are more focused on the former than the latter.
First Trust NASDAQ CEA Smartphone Index Fund (Nasdaq: FONE) Maybe the First Trust NASDAQ CEA Smartphone Index Fund isn't so much deceiving as it is an ETF that dashes the hopes of an unknowing investor. Meaning some folks might stumble upon FONE and say "Wow, surely this ETF is a great way of getting involved with Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)."
While FONE's holdings are representative of the smart phone industry, Apple and Google combine for barely over 4% of the fund's weight.
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