Healthcare ETFs for the Healthy Investor

Joel Anderson  |

The Supreme Court decided on Monday that it will hear arguments regarding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act and whether or not the Federal Government can levy a fine on those people who don't have health insurance. Whether one believes that the court will rule in favor of President Obama's health law or strike it down as unconstitutional, the ruling this spring will clearly have ripple effects on the entire healthcare industry. For an investor interested in speculating on the direction the markets will take, here are several sector specific ETFs that will give you a chance to play your hunches about the direction of the industry.

The broadest and heaviest traded health care ETF is the Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLV). SPDR funds are a well known brand and the Health Care Select Sector SPDR seeks to match the daily movement of the S&P Health Care Select Sector Index. With an average volume of 12.49 million, the SPDR fund is the dominant healthcare ETF, trading more shares than all of the other health care specific ETFs combined. The iShares  Dow Jones U.S. Healthcare Sector Index Fund (IYH) is also a broad ETF, moving with the Dow Jones healthcare sector index, while the iShares S&P Global Healthcare Sector Index Fund (IXJ) seeks to mimic the S&P index based on the global healthcare industry.

The healthcare ETF traded at the second highest volume to the ubiquitous SPDR fund is the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology Index Fund (IBB), which seeks to match the daily movement of the Nasdaq biotech index. With an average volume of over 600,000 share a day, the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index Fund trades at a rate almost double any other healthcare ETF aside from SPDR. Biotech, though, is a popular subset for trading and features several ETFs with relatively heavy volume, including the SPDR S&P Biotech ETF (XBI) and the First Trust NYSE Arca Biotechnology Index Fund (FBT).

The other big sub-sector of healthcare for ETFs is pharmaceuticals, with several options for speculating on the direction the industry may take. Merrill Lynch's Pharmaceutical HOLDRS Trust (PPH)isn't connected to a specific index, but the fund features weighted holdings in 14 different pharmaceutical companies so as to provide a strong sense of the overall performance of the industry.  The PowerShares Dynamic Pharmaceuticals Portfolio (PJP) also builds a diverse portfolio to track the industry's progress, while the SPDR S&P Pharmaceuticals ETF (XPH) seeks to match the daily movement of the S&P Pharmaceuticals Select Index.

And for those investors interested in an ETF to speculate on the healthcare industry but looking for something more volatile, there are some options of leveraged healthcare ETFs. ProShares offers their Ultra Health Care (RXL) and UltraShort Health Care (RXD). Both seek to replicate 200 percent of the daily movement of the Dow Jones U.S. Health Care Index, but the UltraShort is moving inverse to the index. And for the real gambler, there's also the Direxion Daily Healthcare Bull 3x Shares (CURE), which seeks to match 300 percent of the daily movement of the S&P Healthcare Select Sector Index.

Regardless of whether you think the Affordable Care Act is destined for the trash heap or the history books, betting on the rise or fall of the healthcare sector on the whole is made easier by a variety of different, industry specific ETFs available to the savvy investor.

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to:

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