ETF Trends
ETF Trends

Biotech exchange traded funds are not the most docile ETFs on the block. That is the price to pay for embracing funds that consistently rank among the best industry and sector offerings.

From 2012 through 2014, an average of three biotech ETFs were found among each year’s 10 best sector ETFs. This year, that number has swelled to six, which is to say there have certainly been times when a leveraged bullish biotech ETF was a fine idea.

Investors got another such option today with the debut of the Direxion Daily S&P Biotech Bull Shares (NYSEArca: LABU), the first triple-leveraged biotech ETF. For the risk-tolerant biotech naysayers, there are a few of them out there, the Direxion Daily S&P Biotech Bull Shares has a bearish counterpart in the Direxion Daily S&P Biotech Bear Shares (NYSEArca: LABD). The Direxion Daily S&P Biotech Bear Shares is the first triple-leveraged inverse biotech ETF. [Interesting Times for Biotech ETFs]

LABU, the bullish fund, will attempt to deliver triple the daily performance of the S&P Biotechnology Select Industry Index while LABD will try to deliver triple the daily inverse performance of that index. The S&P Biotechnology Select Industry Index is the underlying benchmark for the well-known SPDR S&P Biotech ETF (NYSEArca: XBI), the third-largest biotech ETF by assets. [More to Come for Biotech ETFs]

XBI came into Thursday with a 27% year-to-date gain, making it the fifth-best industry or sector ETF this year. How the new Direxion leveraged biotech ETFs behave in response to action in XBI and the S&P Biotechnology Select Industry Index going forward could be something to behold.

Although XBI is an equal-weight ETF where none of its 98 holdings currently account for more than 2% of the fund’s weight, there have been occasions when FDA and mergers and acquisitions news from just one of the ETF’s holdings has led to significant intraday pops for XBI.

For example, on a single day in July 2014, XBI climbed 6% after shares of Puma Biotechnology (NYSE: PBYI) nearly quadrupled after the company said its experimental breast cancer treatment, neratinib, proved successful in a Phase III trial. Puma was just 1.37% of XBI’s weight entering that particular trading day. On Jan. 9, 2014, XBI soared 7% after Intercept Pharmaceuticals (NasdaqGM: ICPT) nearly quadrupled as well after trials for the company’s liver disease treatment proved successful. Intercept was just 1.61% of XBI’s weight entering that day. [Intercept Lifts This ETF]

Put simply, imagine if LABU was around for those moves in XBI.

LABU and LABD will compete with ProShares Ultra Nasdaq Biotechnology (NasdaqGM: BIB) and the ProShares Ultrashort Nasdaq Biotechnology (NasdaqGM: BIS), the double-leveraged answers to the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (NasdaqGS: IBB).

Direxion has had success with leveraged healthcare ETFs, namely the Direxion Daily Healthcare Bull 3x Shares (NYSEArca: CURE). CURE is one of the fastest-growing leveraged ETFs and was recently split 4-for-1, giving it a more approachable price tag of just under $40 at Wednesday’s close. [Biotech ETFs not out for Summer]

S&P Biotechnology Select Industry Index

Tables Courtesy: Direxion