Beat Weak Q1 Earnings With Revenue-Weighted ETFs

Includes: RWJ, RWK, RWL-OLD, RWV
by: Zacks Funds

The overall Q1 earnings picture looks bleak, with projected earnings growth deep in the negative territory for the fourth consecutive quarter. In fact, the magnitude of negative revisions over the last three months has been the highest among the recent quarters. Q1 earnings are expected to decline 11.1% versus the 6.4% drop in Q4, as per the Zacks Earnings Trend.

However, the projected revenue decline of 2.3% for Q1 is much better than the Q4 revenue decline of 6.6%. Against this backdrop, revenue-weighted ETFs will likely take the lead over earnings-weighted strategies and could be the potential outperformer this earnings season.

Why Revenue-Weighted ETFs?

First, while a series of headwinds have been weighing on the profitability of companies, the depreciation in the dollar could offer some relief to the top line. As such, many companies could come up with an unexpected growth in revenues in their quarterly reports, giving a boost to the revenue-weighted ETFs. Notably, the ICE U.S. Dollar index, a measure of the dollar's strength against a basket of currencies, fell to the lowest level in nearly eight months.

Second, revenue-weighted funds have outperformed the earnings counterparts in both the short and long-term periods, proving the credibility of the superior weighting methodology. This is because revenues are a better indicator of a company's financial health. The top line is harder to manipulate or alter on a quarter-by-quarter basis, as opposed to earnings, which can easily be fattened using accounting tricks, thereby leading to inaccuracy. The earnings-weighted ETFs do not reflect the true picture of the company and raise the risk in the portfolio.

As a result, tilting toward the revenue metric is a more sensible choice. For investors seeking to do this, there is a small lineup of U.S.-focused ETFs that accomplish this task. Below, we have highlighted the funds that could be great choices for investors seeking to make money from the weak earnings season, while at the same time focus on one of the most important aspects of stock investing.

RevenueShares Large Cap ETF (NYSEARCA:RWL-OLD)

This fund provides exposure to the top revenue-generating companies within the large-cap segment of the broad U.S. stock market. It consists of the same securities as the S&P 500 Index. Holding 500 stocks in its basket, the fund is concentrated on the top firm - Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) - at 4.7% of total assets, while other firms hold no more than 2.4% share. However, the product has a diverse exposure to a number of sectors, with consumer staples, consumer discretionary and financial occupying the top three positions. The ETF has amassed $320.7 million in its asset base and charges 49 bps in annual fees. Volume is light, trading in about 33,000 shares a day. The fund is up 0.8% in the year-to-date time frame.

RevenueShares Mid Cap ETF (NYSEARCA:RWK)

This ETF tracks the S&P MidCap 400 Index, providing exposure to the 400 top revenue generators. It is widely spread across components, with none holding more than 3.26% share in the basket. From a sector look, consumer discretionary, industrial and consumer staples take the top three spots with double-digit exposure each. The fund charges 54 bps in fees per year, while it trades in average daily volume of nearly 22,000 shares. It has accumulated $187.7 million in AUM and has added 3.7% so far in the year.

RevenueShares Small Cap ETF (NYSEARCA:RWJ)

This fund targets the small-cap segment of the U.S. equity market. It follows the S&P SmallCap 600 Index and holds 600 stocks. RWJ provides a nice balance across a number of components, with each holding less than 2% share in the basket. However, it is slightly tilted toward industrials and the consumer discretionary sector at nearly 22% each, while consumer staples and financials round off the top four. The product has managed assets worth $276.6 million and sees a light volume of about 30,000 shares per day. It charges 54 bps in expense ratio and is up 2.1% year to date.

RevenueShares Navellier Overall A-100 ETF (NYSEARCA:RWV)

This ETF is unpopular and illiquid in this space, with AUM of just $7 million and average daily volume of under 1,000 shares. It tracks the Navellier Overall A-100 Index and weighs securities by the top line. The product holds a basket of 100 stocks, which are concentrated on the top 10 holdings at 54.43% of assets. ADRs make up for 23.9% share, while consumer discretionary and consumer staples round off the top three in terms of sector allocation. Unlike the other three, RWV is pretty spread across various market caps, though large caps account for the largest share at 65% of the total. It charges 60 bps in fees per year from investors and gained 0.4% in the year-to-date time frame.

Bottom Line

Based on the historical performance, the strategy to weigh stocks by revenue seems one of the most effective factors for weighting the index holdings. Though revenue-weighted ETFs cost more, these have the potential to generate higher returns than their earnings counterpart.

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