Perhaps not surprisingly, data indicate the sector analysts' are most bullish on is technology. Over the past year, the Technology Select Sector SPDR XLK and the tech-heavy PowerShares QQQ QQQ are up 24 percent and 22.6 percent, respectively, while the S&P 500 is higher by 13.7 percent.
"With the end of the first quarter approaching, where are analysts most optimistic and pessimistic in terms of their ratings on stocks in the S&P 500? How have their views changed during the quarter?” FactSet said in a recent note. “At the sector level, analysts are most optimistic on the Information Technology (60 percent).”
Of the 10 stocks analysts are most bullish on, five are members of XLK's roster.
XLK, the largest technology exchange-traded fund by assets, holds 73 stocks. The five XLK components analysts are overtly enthusiastic about are Microchip Technology Inc. MCHP, Broadcom Ltd. AVGO, Visa Inc. V, MasterCard Inc. MA and Applied Materials Inc. AMAT. An average of 93 percent of analysts covering those five stocks have Buy ratings on those names, while none have Sell ratings, according to FactSet data.
Investors Are Responding
Of the five stocks just mentioned, only Visa is a top 10 holding in XLK. MasterCard and Visa aren't eligible for inclusion in QQQ because both are listed on the New York Stock Exchange, not the Nasdaq. Even in the wake of Facebook Inc.'s FB recent public relations controversy, technology ETFs are luring investors this year.
On a combined basis, QQQ and XLK have added nearly $2 billion in new assets this year. Year-to-date, QQQ is the top asset-gathering ETF in the PowerShares stable by a wide margin. Positive flows to QQQ and XLK could be a sign that while analysts are bullish on the ETFs' smaller holdings, investors remain bullish on the likes of Apple Inc. AAPL and Microsoft Corporation MSFT, among others.
Only 36 percent of S&P 500 technology stocks are rated the equivalent of a Hold, while just 4 percent carry ratings equivalent to a Sell, according to FactSet data.
The sectors with lowest percentages of analyst Buy ratings are all high-yield groups: real estate, utilities and telecommunications. That could be the result of rising Treasury yields and anticipation of more rate hikes by the Federal Reserve later this year.
As one example, investors a showing a distaste for the Vanguard Real Estate ETF VNQ. VNQ, the largest sector ETF in the U.S., has bled $2.16 billion in assets this, a figure surpassed by just seven other ETFs.
Disclosure: The author owns shares of VNQ.
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