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Is SPDR S&P Pharmaceuticals ETF (XPH) a Strong ETF Right Now?

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A smart beta exchange traded fund, the SPDR S&P Pharmaceuticals ETF (XPH - Free Report) debuted on 06/19/2006, and offers broad exposure to the Health Care 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.

Because market cap weighted indexes provide a low-cost, convenient, and transparent way of replicating market returns, they work well for investors who believe in market efficiency.

If you're the kind of investor who would rather try and beat the market through good stock selection, then smart beta funds are your best choice; this fund class is known for tracking non-cap weighted strategies.

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

Because the fund has amassed over $226.73 million, this makes it one of the average sized ETFs in the Health Care ETFs. XPH is managed by State Street Global Advisors. This particular fund, before fees and expenses, seeks to match the performance of the S&P Pharmaceuticals Select Industry Index.

The S&P Pharmaceuticals Select Industry Index represents the pharmaceuticals sub-industry portion of the S&P Total Markets Index. The S&P TMI tracks all the US common stocks listed on the NYSE, AMEX, NASDAQ National Market and NASDAQ Small Cap exchanges. The Pharmaceuticals Index is a modified equal weight index.

Cost & Other Expenses

Expense ratios are an important factor in the return of an ETF and in the long-term, cheaper funds can significantly outperform their more expensive cousins, other things remaining the same.

Operating expenses on an annual basis are 0.35% for this ETF, which makes it one of the least expensive products in the space.

It's 12-month trailing dividend yield comes in at 1.48%.

Sector Exposure and Top Holdings

Most ETFs are very transparent products, and disclose their holdings on a daily basis. ETFs also offer diversified exposure, which minimizes single stock risk, though it's still important for investors to research a fund's holdings.

For XPH, it has heaviest allocation in the Healthcare sector --about 100% of the portfolio.

When you look at individual holdings, Axsome Therapeutics Inc. (AXSM - Free Report) accounts for about 4.73% of the fund's total assets, followed by Nektar Therapeutics (NKTR - Free Report) and Corcept Therapeutics Incorporated. (CORT - Free Report) .

XPH's top 10 holdings account for about 36.55% of its total assets under management.

Performance and Risk

The ETF has lost about -8.33% and is down about -11.23% so far this year and in the past one year (as of 09/08/2022), respectively. XPH has traded between $38.15 and $52.45 during this last 52-week period.

The ETF has a beta of 0.88 and standard deviation of 25.77% for the trailing three-year period, making it a high risk choice in the space. With about 44 holdings, it has more concentrated exposure than peers.


SPDR S&P Pharmaceuticals ETF is a reasonable option for investors seeking to outperform the Health Care ETFs segment of the market. However, there are other ETFs in the space which investors could consider.

IShares U.S. Pharmaceuticals ETF (IHE - Free Report) tracks Dow Jones U.S. Select Pharmaceuticals Index and the VanEck Pharmaceutical ETF (PPH - Free Report) tracks MVIS US Listed Pharmaceutical 25 Index. IShares U.S. Pharmaceuticals ETF has $412.21 million in assets, VanEck Pharmaceutical ETF has $550.16 million. IHE has an expense ratio of 0.39% and PPH charges 0.35%.

Investors looking for cheaper and lower-risk options should consider traditional market cap weighted ETFs that aim to match the returns of the Health Care 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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