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Is First Trust Utilities AlphaDEX ETF (FXU) a Strong ETF Right Now?

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Making its debut on 05/08/2007, smart beta exchange traded fund First Trust Utilities AlphaDEX ETF (FXU - Free Report) provides investors broad exposure to the Utilities/Infrastructure ETFs category of the market.

What Are Smart Beta ETFs?

Market cap weighted indexes were created to reflect the market, or a specific segment of the market, and the ETF industry has traditionally been dominated by products based on this strategy.

Investors who believe in market efficiency should consider market cap indexes, as they replicate market returns in a low-cost, convenient, and transparent way.

However, some investors believe in the possibility of beating the market through exceptional stock selection, and choose a different type of fund that tracks non-cap weighted strategies: smart beta.

By attempting to pick stocks that have a better chance of risk-return performance, non-cap weighted indexes are based on certain fundamental characteristics, or a combination of such.

Methodologies like equal-weighting, one of the simplest options out there, fundamental weighting, and volatility/momentum based weighting are all choices offered to investors in this space, but not all of them can deliver superior returns.

Fund Sponsor & Index

Managed by First Trust Advisors, FXU has amassed assets over $347.36 million, making it one of the average sized ETFs in the Utilities/Infrastructure ETFs. This particular fund seeks to match the performance of the StrataQuant Utilities Index before fees and expenses.

The StrataQuant Utilities Index is a modified equal-dollar weighted index designed by the AMEX to objectively identify and select stocks from the Russell 1000 Index that may generate positive alpha relative to traditional passive style indices through the use of the AlphaDEX screening methodology.

Cost & Other Expenses

Since cheaper funds tend to produce better results than more expensive funds, assuming all other factors remain equal, it is important for investors to pay attention to an ETF's expense ratio.

Annual operating expenses for this ETF are 0.64%, making it the most expensive product in the space.

The fund has a 12-month trailing dividend yield of 2.31%.

Sector Exposure and Top Holdings

It is important to delve into an ETF's holdings before investing despite the many upsides to these kinds of funds like diversified exposure, which minimizes single stock risk. And, most ETFs are very transparent products that disclose their holdings on a daily basis.

FXU's heaviest allocation is in the Utilities sector, which is about 92.50% of the portfolio.

When you look at individual holdings, American Electric Power Company, Inc. (AEP - Free Report) accounts for about 4.45% of the fund's total assets, followed by Exelon Corporation (EXC - Free Report) and Pinnacle West Capital Corporation (PNW - Free Report) .

The top 10 holdings account for about 39.92% of total assets under management.

Performance and Risk

So far this year, FXU has lost about -4.88%, and was up about 3.90% in the last one year (as of 06/23/2022). During this past 52-week period, the fund has traded between $29.53 and $35.25.

The ETF has a beta of 0.53 and standard deviation of 24.38% for the trailing three-year period, making it a medium risk choice in the space. With about 41 holdings, it has more concentrated exposure than peers.


First Trust Utilities AlphaDEX ETF is a reasonable option for investors seeking to outperform the Utilities/Infrastructure ETFs segment of the market. However, there are other ETFs in the space which investors could consider.

Vanguard Utilities ETF (VPU - Free Report) tracks MSCI US Investable Market Utilities 25/50 Index and the Utilities Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLU - Free Report) tracks Utilities Select Sector Index. Vanguard Utilities ETF has $5.40 billion in assets, Utilities Select Sector SPDR ETF has $14.96 billion. VPU has an expense ratio of 0.10% and XLU charges 0.10%.

Investors looking for cheaper and lower-risk options should consider traditional market cap weighted ETFs that aim to match the returns of the Utilities/Infrastructure ETFs.

Bottom Line

To learn more about this product and other ETFs, screen for products that match your investment objectives and read articles on latest developments in the ETF investing universe, please visit Zacks ETF Center.

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