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The Apple Effect and Nasdaq ETFs

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The rise of Apple Inc (AAPL - Free Report) has been nothing short of extraordinary over the past few years. The company went from a tiny computer firm to a global behemoth that dominates a variety of hardware and broad consumer electronics markets in a just a few short years.

Now, AAPL is the most valuable company in the world, a dividend payer, and is poised to continue its reign over the tablet and phone market in the near future. Thanks to this, the company’s stock has been a star performer to say the least, adding over 100% in the past two year period, not too shabby for a mega cap firm.

However, while the company may appear invincible to some, a few cracks in the armor are beginning to appear for the computing giant. Worries are starting to crop up over production issues while some are also worried over the company facing the current competition with some forecasting margin compression in the near term.

Thanks to these worries and a general market pullback as of late, Apple shares have been falling from their all-time high just over $705/share. In fact, Apple share prices are now—at time of writing—in correction territory, down more than 10% from this (so far) lifetime peak (read Three Great Tech ETFs that Avoid Apple).

This short-term trend has been pretty devastating for those investors who were late to the Apple party and it has also started to kindle a mild panic in those who have been perma-bullish on the company in the medium term. Beyond direct Apple investors, those who are heavy in Nasdaq-focused ETFs are also probably starting to get worried thanks to this recent trend.

After all, the PowerShares QQQ Trust (QQQ - Free Report) —which tracks the Nasdaq 100 index-- is one of the most popular ETFs in the world and one that puts a great deal of its assets to work in AAPL. The fund has close to $34 billion in AUM and daily volume of roughly 43 million shares a day while Apple makes up roughly 19% of the total assets, making it far and away the top holding in the product.

As a result of this, any movement in Apple seems very likely to drive the return of not only the Nasdaq at large but QQQ as well. Given this, investors in QQQ should also be worried about the performance of Apple going forward (see Three ETFs with the Most Apple Exposure).

However, investors should also note that there are a variety of other ways to target the Nasdaq with ETFs that may not be as dependent on Apple in order to generate returns. For example, two ETFs come to mind that could offer up solid Nasdaq exposure without such a heavy Apple concentration at this time:

First up is the Nasdaq 100 Equal Weight ETF from First Trust (QQEW - Free Report) which offers up a similar holding profile as its more popular QQQ counterpart. However, this fund equally-weights all of the 100 stocks in the basket, leaving Apple with a weighting below 1% at last check.

Thanks to this lower exposure level to Apple, the fund has been able to outperform QQQ in the short term as AAPL has fallen from its lofty heights. Still, the product is extremely heavy in technology as this segment accounts for roughly 50% of the total exposure of the fund (see Is It Time For an Equal Weight ETF?).

Beyond this broad equal weight fund, ETF investors also have another First Trust fund at their disposal (QQXT - Free Report) . This product targets the Nasdaq-100 ex-Technology, giving the fund a very different holdings profile with its 57 securities.

Thanks to the absence of technology, Apple is nowhere to be found at all in the fund, allowing this equal weight product to go more into consumer and health care instead. Additionally, the avoidance of AAPL, and the broad tech sector, has allowed QQXT to outperform both the broad equal weight fund and QQQ over the trailing one month period.







Market Cap

Equal Weight

Equal weight ex-Tech

Apple Assets?




1-Mo Return




3-Mo Return




6-Mo Return




However, despite the recent underperformance of QQQ thanks to AAPL, investors should note that the product—thanks in large part to the computing giant and its heavy weight in the Nasdaq—has outperformed the others by a wide margin over longer time periods (see The Five Best ETFs over the Past Five Years).

In fact, QQQ has outperformed both QQEW and QQXT in the trailing three month period and by an extremely wide margin in the trailing one year time frame as well. Seemingly the only time period of consequence that has seen QQQ lose out is in the past six month time frame, in which the ex-tech path was the way to go.

So, for investors who are starting to panic over QQQ thanks to the recent slump of AAPL, it is important to keep things in perspective. Yes, it has been a terrible few sessions for Apple, but clearly a heavy allocation to the company has greatly benefited investors over the long haul for those who seek Nasdaq-based exposure.

Furthermore, for those taking an ETF approach, the losses over the past few sessions have been quite dull when compared to what investors have seen in the shares of AAPL in the same time period. Should this situation continue, QQQ could remain a lower risk way to maintain exposure to the company, especially if troubles continue at the global computing giant, at least in the short-term (read The Truth about Low Volume ETFs).

After all, if history is any guide, investors certainly don’t want to forget about AAPL entirely, as this current slump for the company may just be a temporary bump in the road. However, since we cannot be sure if this is the beginning of the end, a lower risk approach seems like a decent strategy in the short-term, at least until more clarity is obtained over the future path of this (potentially former) investment darling.  

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