Big Growth for Aerospace Stocks, ETFs

Several aerospace and defense exchange traded funds raced to record highs Monday following reports that Northrop Grumman Corp. agreed to buy Orbital ATK Inc. for $7.8 billion, but there are more catalysts ahead for these ETFs, which are already among this year’s best-performing industry funds.

The iShares U.S. Aerospace & Defense ETF (BATS: ITA), the largest fund in the group, is surging this year and hit a record high Monday. ITA is a cap-weighted ETF, meaning it has larger weights to big-name defense stocks, including Dow components Boeing (NYSE: BA) and United Technologies (NYSE: UTX). Aerospace and defense stocks are part of the broader industrial sector and have been important drivers of the sector’s performance over the past year. In fact, aerospace and defense names have been industrial leaders.

“The global aerospace and defense industry is likely to experience stronger growth in 2017. The report indicates that the industry has experienced multiple years of positive but a subdued rate of growth and in 2017, the aerospace and defense industry is estimated to grow by about 2.0 percent,” according to Deloitte.

Rivals to ITA include the PowerShares Aerospace & Defense Portfolio (NYSEArca: PPA) and the SPDR S&P Aerospace & Defense ETF (NYSEArca: XAR). XAR is an equal-weight ETF. PPA holds 50 stocks “involved in the development, manufacturing, operations and support of US defense, homeland security and aerospace operations,” according to PowerShares.

XAR also joined ITA in Monday’s all-time high club. PPA, which is up almost 20% year-to-date, resides within pennies of a record high.