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

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Making its debut on 06/19/2006, smart beta exchange traded fund SPDR S&P Pharmaceuticals ETF (XPH - Free Report) provides investors broad exposure to the Health Care ETFs category of the market.

What Are Smart Beta ETFs?

Products that are based on market cap weighted indexes, which are strategies designed to reflect a specific market segment or the market as a whole, have traditionally dominated the ETF industry.

A good option for investors who believe in market efficiency, market cap weighted indexes offer a low-cost, convenient, and transparent way of replicating market returns.

But, there are some investors who would rather invest in smart beta funds; these funds track non-cap weighted strategies, and are a strong option for those who prefer choosing great stocks in order to beat the market.

Based on specific fundamental characteristics, or a combination of such, these indexes attempt to pick stocks that have a better chance of risk-return performance.

This area offers many different investment choices, such as simplest equal-weighting, fundamental weighting and volatility/momentum based weighting methodologies; however, not all of these strategies can deliver superior results.

Fund Sponsor & Index

Because the fund has amassed over $202.76 million, this makes it one of the average sized ETFs in the Health Care ETFs. XPH is managed by State Street Global Advisors. Before fees and expenses, XPH 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

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.

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 1.38%.

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.

XPH's heaviest allocation is in the Healthcare sector, which is about 100% of the portfolio.

Taking into account individual holdings, Eli Lilly + Co (LLY - Free Report) accounts for about 5.17% of the fund's total assets, followed by Johnson + Johnson W/d (JNJ - Free Report) and Catalent Inc (CTLT - Free Report) .

The top 10 holdings account for about 47.51% of total assets under management.

Performance and Risk

Year-to-date, the SPDR S&P Pharmaceuticals ETF has lost about -1.08% so far, and is down about -4.52% over the last 12 months (as of 12/15/2023). XPH has traded between $35.20 and $44.25 in this past 52-week period.

XPH has a beta of 0.81 and standard deviation of 20.50% for the trailing three-year period, which makes the fund a high risk choice in the space. With about 41 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.

VanEck Pharmaceutical ETF (PPH - Free Report) tracks MVIS US Listed Pharmaceutical 25 Index and the iShares U.S. Pharmaceuticals ETF (IHE - Free Report) tracks Dow Jones U.S. Select Pharmaceuticals Index. VanEck Pharmaceutical ETF has $425.81 million in assets, iShares U.S. Pharmaceuticals ETF has $596.77 million. PPH has an expense ratio of 0.36% and IHE charges 0.40%.

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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