Apple (NasdaqGS: AAPL), the largest U.S. company by market value, reports fiscal first-quarter results after the close of U.S. markets Tuesday with analysts expecting earnings of $2.59 a share on revenue of $67.7 billion.
Heading into the after-hours report, shares of Apple are off 1.5% in midday trading and leading up to the iPhone makers always widely anticipated earnings, exchange traded funds with large allocations to the stock have not been capturing investors’ attention. At least not in terms of inflows.
The Technology Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLK), the largest technology sector ETF, has lost $33.6 million in assets since the start of the year. That is a tolerable amount for an ETF that still has $13.5 billion in assets under management, but those modest departures underscore the fact that Apple’s share price and flows to ETFs heavy on the stock are not always correlated. [Apple’s Rise Sends Cash to Tech ETFs]
For example, shares of the iPad maker surge nearly 40% last year, more than triple the 12.4% returned by the S&P 500. However, XLK, an ETF that currently allocates 16.5% of its weight to Apple, lost $1.53 billion in assets in 2014 even as Apple helped the fund jump nearly 17%. [Finally Some Love for a Big Tech ETF]
Some Apple-heavy ETFs did gain assets at an impressive clip last year. For example, the iShares U.S. Technology ETF (NYSEArca: IYW) and the Fidelity MSCI Information Technology Index ETF (NYSEArca: FTEC) added $914.2 million and $238 million, respectively, in new assets in 2014. For FTEC, those inflows represented nearly 75% of the ETF’s $318 million in AUM at the end of the year. With an Apple weight of 15.7%, FTEC is a credible player in the Apple ETF conversation.
With an Apple allocation of nearly 19%, IYW is one of the dominant Apple ETFs. Ahead of Apple’s earnings report, IYW is languishing today, down 2.4%, due to some bad news from one of its other major holdings. Microsoft (NasdaqGS: MSFT), 11% of IYW’s weight, is lower by 8.5% after its earnings disappointed Wall Street.
Year-to-date, IYW and FTEC have added $7.6 million and $46.5 million in new assets, respectively. While Apple has the potential to alleviate some of the recent pressure on tech ETFs, the long-term case for the funds highlighted here remains sturdy.
Tech’s increased credibility as a legitimate dividend destination also boosts the allure of ETFs like IYW. In 2014, the average dividend increase from Apple, IBM, Cisco (NasdaqGS: CSCO) and Qualcomm (NasdaqGS: QCOM) was 14%. Importantly, the tech sector has ample room for dividend growth.
“Some industry-leading companies have been hoarding cash. Consider that four information-age bellwethers―Apple, Microsoft, Google and Cisco―possess a combined $345 billion in cash. And the overall tech sector holds more than half of total corporate cash reserves in the U.S.,” said BlackRock Global Investment Strategist Heidi Richardson in a recent note. “With strong balance sheets, these companies are well-positioned to deliver returns through share repurchases, dividend increases and mergers and acquisitions.” [Time to Embrace Old Tech ETFs Again]
Technology Select Sector SPDR
Tom Lydon’s clients own shares of Apple and Microsoft.