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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?

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.

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.

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.

The smart beta space gives investors many different choices, from equal-weighting, one of the simplest strategies, to more complicated ones like fundamental and volatility/momentum based weighting. However, not all of these methodologies have been able to deliver remarkable returns.

Fund Sponsor & Index

Because the fund has amassed over $222.40 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, this particular fund 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

Cost is an important factor in selecting the right ETF, and cheaper funds can significantly outperform their more expensive cousins if all other fundamentals are the same.

Operating expenses on an annual basis are 0.35% for XPH, making it one of the least expensive products in the space.

It's 12-month trailing dividend yield comes in at 1.21%.

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.

Representing 100% of the portfolio, the fund has heaviest allocation to the Healthcare sector.

When you look at individual holdings, Elanco Animal Health Inc (ELAN - Free Report) accounts for about 5.58% of the fund's total assets, followed by Intra Cellular Therapies Inc (ITCI - Free Report) and Zoetis Inc (ZTS - Free Report) .

Its top 10 holdings account for approximately 47.5% of XPH's total assets under management.

Performance and Risk

Year-to-date, the SPDR S&P Pharmaceuticals ETF return is roughly 5.81% so far, and was up about 3.88% over the last 12 months (as of 02/15/2024). XPH has traded between $35.20 and $44.68 in this past 52-week period.

The fund has a beta of 0.77 and standard deviation of 20.54% for the trailing three-year period, which makes XPH a high risk choice in this particular 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 $506.63 million in assets, iShares U.S. Pharmaceuticals ETF has $672.45 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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