ETF Watchlist: Week of April 24, 2017

After a couple of relatively quieter weeks, things are going to pick up in a big way. Volatility remains modest but a slew of economic data, earnings reports and events from the political front could make this a more turbulent week than we’ve seen lately. There’s almost too much going on to summarize in one paragraph so let’s break down each group of events separately.

Tax reform, a government shutdown and the French election

Voting in the French presidential election just wrapped up and it looks like Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron will advance to the runoff election. Most eyes are on National Front party candidate Le Pen, the far right candidate who’s been likened to Donald Trump for her populist views. Macron is the former economy minister. The second round of voting will take place on May 7. The results of this election are notable for several reasons. First, if the results come in as expected, it will be the first election in generations where the two primary political parties will not be represented in the second round. Second, tensions are high in France right now following the shooting on the Champs Elysees that left one officer dead and two others injured. About 50,000 police and 7,000 soldiers were deployed around the country. Third, a Le Pen victory could signal the end of the EU. She has expressed an interest in withdrawing from the group and returning to the franc. Le Pen’s supporters are strongly in favor of a referendum to exit the EU and a second major country exodus from the group could signal trouble for its long term viability.

Congress has a deadline of Friday to pass a funding bill in order to avert a government shutdown. The Trump administration wants border wall funding as part of the deal, a notion that Democrats have balked at. Trump has recently raised the idea that he could focus on Obamacare repeal again and may use that as a bargaining chip to get funding for the wall.

If that weren’t enough, Trump announced on Twitter last week that on Wednesday he will unveil his tax reform plan.

The market rallied last week on the notion that some type of announcement would be forthcoming.

The Economic Calendar

Consumer confidence and sentiment readings come this week. Both numbers came in at the highest levels in years last month leaving some to wonder if the good times will roll on or if some natural pullback from these readings will take place. Expect solid numbers either way but I don’t expect the market to move much on the data. Also coming this week: initial jobless claims, Q1 GDP and home sales.

Q1 Earnings Blitz

A little less than one-fifth of S&P 500 companies have reported Q1 results so far with results looking fairly good. About 75% of companies have beaten earnings estimates but overall revenue growth has been more tepid. This week, however, more than 190 components of the index will deliver results which could lead to high trading volume and big share price swings. The number of big names reporting is too long to list here but among the companies we’ll hear from include Amazon (AMZN), Alphabet (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT), Intel (INTC), ExxonMobil (XOM), Coca-Cola (KO), McDonald’s (MCD) and AT&T (T).

With everything coming up this week, it’d probably be easy to come up with a list of a dozen funds to watch. In the name of expediency, here are the four ETFs that I think could make significant moves this week.

iShares MSCI France ETF (EWQ)

Anytime intelligence services warn of possible rioting in response to presidential election results, it’s usually best to keep your guard up. Protesting similar to what we’ve seen in the U.S. is likely given the position on the political spectrum of Le Pen and other candidates. That alone won’t move the French markets but the impact of a possible Frexit and a changed economic climate could.

The France ETF is up around 7% year-to-date and has been relatively stable in the weeks leading up to this weekend’s election. Keep an eye out for any indications that Le Pen could win the May 7 election (she’s not currently favored to) and if she intends to try to yank France from the EU.

Others: iShares Europe ETF (IEV), Vanguard FTSE Europe ETF (VGK)

Vanguard Energy ETF (VDE)

Given the plethora of companies reporting this week, you could probably go with just about any sector ETF. Two weeks ago, I went with the financials. Last week, it was technology. This week, I think energy is the sector to watch.

Top ten holdings ExxonMobil, Chevron (CVX), ConocoPhillips (COP) and Phillips 66 (PSX) all report on Friday before the open while Halliburton (HAL) reports on Monday. Those names alone account for more than 40% of the total assets of this fund. Its main comparable, the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE), has a similar weighting to these names. They are the titans of the industry! Also watch the Biotechnology ETF (IBB) this week as Amgen (AMGN), Biogen (BIIB) and Celgene (CLGN) all report.

Others: Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE), iShares U.S. Energy ETF (IYE)

iShares U.S. Medical Devices ETF (IHI)

The medical devices sector has been one of the hottest momentum plays in the market lately. The sector floated to the surface again this week as Intuitive Surgical (ISRG), the manufacturer of the da Vinci surgical system, reported a blowout quarter thanks to strong demand for its robotic surgery technology. Given the evolution of robotics and artificial intelligence in the medical field and the fact that just 5% of procedures are currently robot-assisted, there’s a lot of long-term growth potential in this group. The U.S. Medical Devices ETF has the added bonus of only trading at 28 times forward earnings, a relative bargain given the forecasted growth of this space.

First Trust Dow Jones Internet Index ETF (FDN)

Keep an eye on this fund towards the latter half of the coming week. This is another fund that has a large percentage of its assets delivering earnings this week.

Juniper Networks (JNPR) reports on Tuesday, Twitter (TWTR) and PayPal (PYPL) on Wednesday, Amazon and Alphabet on Thursday. Those holdings account for about one-quarter of the fund’s assets.

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