NEW YORK (TheStreet) — A combination of factors is helping to boost the popularity of large, industry behemoths like General Electric(GE), Exxon Mobil(XOM), International Business Machines(IBM), and Procter & Gamble(PG).Although mega caps such as these are often viewed as boring, this slice of the marketplace could prove attractive in the months ahead.
For one, companies in this mega-cap segment appear noticeably cheap. This week, both the Economist and Barron’s cited an analyst report from Morgan Stanley that noted that, relative to the broader market, mega-cap companies are currently at their cheapest levels in a quarter century.
Secondly, the Dow’s impressive rally over the past few weeks is helping to thrust this class of firms into the spotlight. Over the past month, this large-cap dominated index has managed to pull ahead of small- and mid-cap indices such as the Russell 2000 and the S&P 400 Mid Cap Index.
At this time, it’s still too early to definitively state that the business cycle has shifted in favour of large caps and mega caps, and it is clear that the Dow still has ample ground to cover in order to catch up with these two indices. However, it will be interesting to see if, in the short term, this trend will persist.
In the past, I have pointed to mega caps as an attractive corner of the marketplace for cautious investors looking to either take initial steps back into equities, or to protect against the threat of market turmoil.
As we have been reminded during the first half of the year, the global marketplace is vulnerable to turmoil, including the political unrest in the Middle East, the natural disaster in Japan and the recent commodity shake-up. Although I remain confident that we are on the road to recovery, I am also aware there will be hurdles ahead.
There are a number of ETFs available that provide investors with ample exposure to industry leaders in the United States and across the globe. Unfortunately, however, many of these funds have struggled to gain a suitable following.
At this time, the iShares S&P 100 Index Fund(OEF), iShares S&P Global 100 Index Fund(IOO) and the iShares S&P Asia 50 Index Fund(AIA) are among the strongest options out there. All three boast ample liquidity, making them stable for long-term investors.
OEF’s index is comprised entirely of U.S.-based companies, making it ideal for investors looking for a way to access mega caps from a purely domestic perspective. The fund’s top holdings include Exxon, Apple(AAPL), GE, and Chevron(CVX).
Although the U.S. represents a large percentage of IOO’s portfolio, this fund takes a geographically diverse approach to tracking mega caps. In addition to having Exxon and GE can be found listed at the top of the fund’s index, IOO’s index also includes Nestle and HSBC(HBC) among its 10 largest positions.
As its name implies, AIA’s index is Asia-centric. South Korea, China, and Taiwan command the largest geographic slices of the fund’s index, making this fund attractive as both a mega-cap play and an emerging-market play.
It is crucial to note that, given its concentrated exposure to developing markets, AIA will likely behave in a more volatile manner than other mega-cap options. This fund may prove too be excessively risky for the most conservative minded investors.
Mega caps could prove to be a region to watch in middle of 2011. OEF, IOO, and AIA are three funds investors can use to gain direct exposure to the world’s business leaders.
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