Investors may be underweight financial-related exchange traded funds ahead of a promising earnings season ahead after the sector underperformed the broader market for years.
Over the past five years, the Financial Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLF) retruned an average annualized 9.8%, iShares U.S. Financials ETF (NYSEArca: IYF) rose 10.4% and Vanguard Financials ETF (NYSEArca: VFH) gained 10.3%. Meanwhile, the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSEArca: SPY) has increased an average 14.2%.
So far this year, financials have been the second worst performing area of the S&P 500 this year, with XLF down 2.1% while SPY is 1.3% higher. Additionally, ETF investors have not shown a lot of confidence in the sector, pulling out $2.7 billion out of XLF since the start of the year, according to ETF.com.
However, the sector could be poised to outperform the broader markets this earnings season. According to FactSet, the sector could see earnings growth of more than 8% in the first quarter, making financials one of four sectors expected to show positive growth, reports Alex Rosenberg for CNBC. [Financial Sector ETFs Could Outperform This Earnings Season]
Some observers see potential opportunities in the space. For instance, Bernstein’s John McDonald has raised his estimates of JPMorgan (NYSE: JPM) to outperform ahead of the earnings season “on prospects for expense leverage, better trading, opportunity to optimize for new regulatory rules, and leverage to rates.” JPM makes up 7.6% of XLF, 5.7% of IYF and 5.9% of VFH.
Moreover, David Seaburg, Cowen’s head of equity sales trading, argues that investors have largely overlooked financials.
“The fundamentals are really solid,” Seaburg said in the article. “It’s a very under-owned group, so I think a lot of money is going to be gravitating here. I really think this group, long term, is a buy. And I think ahead of the earnings, it’s absolutely a buy.”