The telecommunications is often overlooked compared to other S&P 500 sectors, but size is not the only reason.
Telecom is the smallest sector in the benchmark U.S. index at a weight of 2.3%, but utilities have been afforded darling status at a weight of just 3.3%. As of Dec. 26, there was $311.1 billion allocated to sector ETFs, but a scant percentage of that is devoted to telecom ETFs. [Investors Flock to Energy ETFs]
Telecom ETFs rarely spend time in the fast lane. In fact, the Vanguard Telecommunication Services ETF (NYSEArca: VOX) is up just 2.2% this year. Lethargic performances by VOX and other telecom ETFs opened the door for the SPDR S&P Telecom ETF (NYSEArca: XTL) to be 2014’s top performing telecom ETF. XTL is the 2014 king of telecom ETFs with a gain of 5.2%.
XTL is a month away from its fourth anniversary and has cobbled $35 million in assets under management. What makes XTL unique among telecom ETFs is what stocks do not loom large within the fund.
For example, VOX allocates 44.4% of its weight Dow components Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T (NYSE: T). An equal-weight ETF, XTL allocates a mere 4.3% of its combined weight to AT&T and Verizon. The light weights to those stocks has worked in XTL’s favor this year as AT&T and Verizon are each down more than 3%, making them two of the year’s worst Dow performers.
The weakness in telecom ETFs is also surprising (and concerning) when considering the sector is considered interest rate-sensitive, but 10-year Treasury yields have tumbled this year. Rate sensitivity is where XTL could be reborn as a preferred way of gaining telecom sector exposure. [Telecom ETFs Betray Conservative Reputations]