Materials ETFs Surge On Dow Chemical, DuPont Chemistry

by: Zacks Funds

The latest merger talks between chemical giants Dow Chemical (DOW) and DuPont (DD) might provide a fresh lease of life to the long-ailing material sector. This is especially true as total earnings from the basic material sector were down 18.8% on 214.4% lower revenues as of December 4.

The potential merger is rumored to be worth about $130 billion and split the business of the new entity into three new, per sources, namely material sciences, specialty products and agrochemicals. As of December 9, Dow had a market cap of $66.01 billion, while DuPont had a market cap of $65.28 billion.

The news was brought to light by The Wall Street Journal. However, there is no assurance of the merger and talks could even disintegrate. If at all the deal is cracked, it would require regulatory clearances in several countries, per Reuters. No comment was made by either of the concerned entities.

Both firms are striving to cut their underperforming assets and are gradually shifting to the high-growth areas. In the latest concluded third quarter, Dow Chemical maintained its streak of earnings beat for eight successive quarters. Strong performance by the Plastics segment backed by a lower cost of raw materials like oil and natural gas drove this outperformance.

Dow Chemical also raised its quarterly dividend by 10% to 46 cents, which is the highest in the company's history, reflecting its core strength. However, Dow's farm chemicals and seeds unit is reeling under pressure for about a year.

On the other hand, DuPont beat earnings estimate on cost containment, but its revenues and profits slipped on a strong dollar as the company is heavily exposed to international markets and a soft agriculture business due to soft demand for crop protection products, per Reuters.

In such a situation, joining forces would be a win-win case as the duo can cash in on each other's strength. CNBC estimated a cost synergy of $3 billion from the likely merger.

Market Impact

As soon as the news became viral, Dow and DuPont shares climbed about 11.9% each on elevated trading volumes. Plus, Dow Shares advanced about 0.6% after hours of December 9, while DuPont shares returned about 0.1%. Dow shares rose on 4.3 times the regular volume, while DuPont rose on 3.8 times the daily volume.

Dow Chemical has a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) and has a Value score of 'B' and a Growth score of 'A' despite hailing from a sector which is in the bottom 25% in the Zacks universe. DuPont has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Solid price performance by these two chemical bellwethers led to a rally in material ETFs that are heavily invested in these two stocks. Though these funds have an unfavorable Zacks ETF Rank of 4 or' Sell' rating, they gained in the range of 2.1% to 3.3% on December 9 and are on investors' radar for the weeks ahead.

Materials Select Sector SPDR (NYSEARCA:XLB)

The most popular material ETF follows the Materials Select Sector Index. This fund manages about $2.18 billion in its asset base and trades in heavy volume of around 7.5 million. The ETF charges 14 bps in fees per year from investors. In total, the fund holds about 30 securities in its basket with DOW and DD taking the top two spots, with over 11% allocation each.

In terms of industrial exposure, chemicals dominates the portfolio with three-fourth share, while 'metals and mining' and 'containers and packaging' round off the top three positions. XLB is off about 6.4% so far this year (as of December 9, 2015) but rose over 3% post the news.

iShares U.S. Basic Materials ETF (NYSEARCA:IYM)

This ETF tracks the Dow Jones U.S. Basic Materials Index and holds 53 stocks in its basket. The fund has AUM of $353 million and charges 43 bps in fees and expenses. Volume is good as it exchanges around 106,000 shares a day. DOW and DD occupy the top two positions in the basket, with over 11% of assets each. The product is heavily skewed toward the chemical segment, as it makes up for more than three-fourths of the portfolio while steel, 'forestry and paper', 'metals and mining' receive minor allocations to IYM. The fund is down 10.7% year to date (as of December 9, 2015), but jumped over 3.3% in the key trading session.

Vanguard Materials ETF (NYSEARCA:VAW)

This fund has amassed about $1.1 billion in its asset base and offers exposure to 120 stocks by tracking the MSCI U.S. Investable Market Materials 25/50 Index. The ETF has 0.12% in expense ratio. Here, DOW and DD are the top two firms accounting for nearly 8% share each. Chemicals make up for nearly 70% of assets, while 'container and packaging' and steel also make a nice mix in the portfolio. The fund is down 8.9% in the year-to-date frame (as of December 9, 2015), but added over 2.1% following the merger news.

Fidelity MSCI Materials Index ETF (NYSEARCA:FMAT)

This fund provides exposure to more than 120 materials stocks with AUM of $68.8 million. This is done by tracking the MSCI USA IMI Materials Index. Here too, DOW and DD are the top two firms with nearly 8% allocation. Chemicals accounts for 69.7% share, while 'container and packaging', and 'metals and mining' round off the top three spots with double-digit exposure each. The ETF has 0.12% in expense ratio. The fund was up about 2.3% on December 9 but has lost 8.8% so far this year.

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