Equity ETF Performance Slides After Big First Quarter

Includes: IYG, KBWB, SCIF
by: Tom Lydon

Stock ETFs were deep in the red Wednesday after the minutes of the latest Federal Reserve meeting threw cold water on speculation the central bank is gearing up to unleash another wave of quantitative easing.

Equity ETFs posted stellar results for the first quarter of 2012, supported by the favorable performance of the S&P 500 Index. The index had a positive total return of 12.6%, with about 300 ETFs outperforming the S&P in the first three months of the year.

"The positive returns from equity ETFs were broad based. Among equity ETFs classified as having more of a domestic stock emphasis, 334 were in positive territory, along with 273 equity ETFs that had more of a global or international emphasis," Tom Graves, CFA of S&P Capital IQ Equity Research, wrote in a recent MarketScope article.

"Among the 52 ETFs with a total return of 20%, S&P Capital IQ's MarketScope Advisor database identified 34 of them as having a sector influence, including 12 in financials, 10 in information technology, and six in consumer discretionary," Graves wrote.

Market Vectors India Small-Cap Index ETF (SCIF) led the equity ETFs that had greater than a 25% total return, at 39%. Keep in mind, on the basis of a one-year return, this fund was still down 20% at the end of March.

iShares Dow Jones US Financial Services Index fund (IYG) was also one of the top-performing equity ETFs for the first quarter. Financial services have been an investor favorite over the first quarter of 2012, and with the equity market taking off, the financial sector rises along with it. Many US banking firms did alright on the recent stress tests, bringing back investor interest into the sector.

PowerShares KBW Bank Portfolio (KBWB) also made the top 13 equity performance cut. S&P Capital IQ Equity Research gave KBWB, and the aforementioned ETFs an overall ranking of overweight. The ETF KBWB tracks an index of publicly trading U.S. banking companies.

Tisha Guerrero contributed to this article.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.