XLV, XBI: Why We're Bullish On Healthcare (Generally) And Biotech (Specifically)

Summary

  • In spite of half of our FMP's four building blocks trading in distress-mode, the portfolio/investment strategy is working just fine.
  • Although stocks are no longer expensive, the economy is looking so fragile, posing a great deal of risk for further decline.
  • This year's lead investment themes remain intact, and we're still very much in a risk-off environment.
  • One of the sectors we remain constructive about is Healthcare as it fits the leading themes as well as offering better value than its defensive peers.
  • Very low exposure to tech/growth stocks is allowing us to have a large exposure to biotech, where healthcare meets tech and growth.
  • Looking for a helping hand in the market? Members of Macro Trading Factory get exclusive ideas and guidance to navigate any climate. Learn More »

Female Research Scientist with Bioengineer Working on a Personal Computer with Screen Showing Virus Analysis Software User Interface. Scientists Developing Vaccine, Drugs and Antibiotics in Laboratory

gorodenkoff/iStock via Getty Images

[Please note that this article was first published on May 31st for subscribers of Macro Trading Factory ("MTF"), as part of our weekly macro/market review.

As such, whenever there's a reference to time, the pivot date is May 31st, although upon checking the content of this article - not much has changed aside of valuations. Therefore, even if the exact figures have changed - the investment thesis hasn't.]

Half of Our Four Building Blocks are Distressed

If you look at our Funds Macro Portfolio ("FMP") - surely if you follow our writing - there are four building blocks when it comes to the long side:

  1. Energy
  2. Materials (Commodities/Miners/Precious Metals/Agriculture)
  3. China
  4. Healthcare/Biotech

We've already grinded to dust all four building blocks, but if there's one of those we haven't touched upon as much as the others (lately) it's the fourth one.

In this piece (while it's a usual weekly macro review) we wish to focus on that fourth building block, especially since this together with China are the two more promising opportunities right now if we look over the next 5 (rather 1-2) years.

This isn't to say that Energy and/or Materials are less interesting, rather that while Commodities-related sectors have already gone up a lot, the two other building blocks are still very much distressed, therefore likely offering a larger upside potential.

Chart
Data by YCharts

Side note: In-spite of half of our four building blocks trading in "distressed" territory, we wish to remind you that the FMP is up 3.14% YTD, outperforming SPY by nearly 21% (at the end of June 10th), while taking (significantly) lower risk.

FMP is up 3.14% YTD, outperforming SPY by nearly 21% (at the end of June 10th)

Macro Trading Factory

As we already mentioned several times, another pillar we're looking to add (when the time comes) is bonds.

Although spreads widened in April relative to trailing 3-month levels, all but BBB-rated spreads are still lower than their 20-year averages.

Naturally, differences (in spreads) are smaller for IG- vs HY- rated bonds.

Although spreads widened in April relative to trailing 3-month levels, all but BBB-rated spreads are still lower than their 20-year averages.

Bloomberg

The time (for bonds) hasn't come yet, but it will.

Consumption Destruction Ahead

According to the AAA motoring club data, US retail gasoline average price hits a fresh record high of $4.622/gallon.

The number of States where retail gasoline costs more than $5/gallon is now seven, with Illinois joining the West Coast pack (WA, OR, CA, NV, AK, HI).

In Los Angeles, the price of gasoline has hit $8 per gallon.

This is a "guaranteed recipe" to successfully destroy consumption.

If such high prices spread out, US consumer sentiment is likely to reach unprecedented low levels.

It seems as if consumers haven't yet fully digested how high gasoline prices are. Once they do, sentiment (black line) - currently reflecting an expected average gasoline price of "only" ~$6 throughout summer - will sink way below the expansion (50) threshold.

It seems as if consumers haven't yet fully digested how high gasoline prices are. Once they do, sentiment (black line) - currently reflecting an expected average gasoline price of "only" ~$6 throughout summer - will sink way below the expansion (50) threshold.

True Insights

Once again, oil prices are closing on the multi-year highs.

oil prices are closing on the multi-year highs.

Bloomberg

Another important aspect to keep in mind is inventories and reserves.

OECD oil inventories are now close to record lows as a percentage of demand. With China only starting to reopen following recent strict COVID lockdowns, one can only imagine what could happen to oil prices when China is fully back on track?

OECD oil inventories are now close to record lows as a percentage of demand. With China only starting to reopen following recent strict COVID lockdowns, one can only imagine what could happen to oil prices when China is fully back on track?

Various

...as well as to inflation?

Inflation Vicious Circle

Nordea

This implies a serious tail risk ahead for oil that's only starting to be priced in. With production remaining fairly flat (and OPEC doesn't show signs of willingness to increase output), the only "solution" to this might be the consumption destruction we mentioned above.

In more simple words, the ultimate (perhaps only) way to lower energy prices is to ensure we are going through a... recession [and no, we're not kidding]

Since the end of the COVID recession, retail inventories ex-autos have spiked at an annualized rate of 12.8%, way higher than the prior expansion period (post 2008) where inventories rose at an annualized rate of only 2.7%.

Since the end of the COVID recession, retail inventories ex-autos have spiked at an annualized rate of 12.8%, way higher than the prior expansion period (post 2008) where inventories rose at an annualized rate of only 2.7%.

Bloomberg

Having all that in mind, it's not a big surprise to see the Citigroup Economic Surprise Index being down hard over the last few weeks.

it's not a big surprise to see the Citigroup Economic Surprise Index being down hard over the last few weeks.

Yardeni Research

And if this isn't enough to scare you off, here is Morgan Stanley (MS), a bank you can always count on to deliver the most bearish (and sober?) outlook on the street.

Last week’s strength will prove to be another bear market rally in the end. The key fundamental call we are focused on now is slowing growth, and our view that earnings estimates are too high - MS's Mike Wilson

Last week’s strength will prove to be another bear market rally in the end. The key fundamental call we are focused on now is slowing growth, and our view that earnings estimates are too high - MS's Mike Wilson

Bloomberg

2022 Lead Investment Themes Remain Intact

Summing up last week:

  • Bear on the cover of Barron's
  • Freak-out tweet from Bill Ackman (similar to March 2020)
  • George Soros said "civilization may not survive"
  • Ray Dalio said "cash is trash... but equities are trashier"
  • Oh, and the stock market ended up 6%...

Big Weekly Gains Tend To Mark The Start To More Strength

LPL Research

In-spite of the past week, when the S&P 500 (SPX) managed to escape from tying the all-time record of eight consecutive down weeks, the main themes so far in 2022 were:

  • No to Growth, Cyclicals, Small-caps.
  • Yes to Value, non-Cyclicals, Large-caps.

No to Growth, Cyclicals, Small-caps. Yes to Value, non-Cyclicals, Large-caps.

Charles Schwab

If you ask yourself what is more hated, Growth or Small-caps, the answer is the former.

In-spite of both indices experiencing a very rough year, Russell 2000 (IWM) is still outperforming NASDAQ Composite (COMP.IND, NDX) YTD by the widest margin (6.5%) since 2016.

In-spite of both indices experiencing a very rough year, Russell 2000 (<a href='https://seekingalpha.com/symbol/IWM' title='iShares Russell 2000 ETF'>IWM</a>) is still outperforming NASDAQ Composite (<a href='https://seekingalpha.com/symbol/COMP' title='Compass, Inc.'>COMP</a>) YTD by the widest margin (6.5%) since 2016.

Bloomberg

FAAMG has given back all gains generated during 2021

Goldman Sachs

Great opportunities do not come every year… - Charles Dow

Those of you who keep asking us whether it's too late to jump onto Commodities (be it Energy, Agriculture, or Metals) should watch the below closely.

On one hand, a sharp decline in global economic growth (let alone recession) could very well bring some serious headwinds.

a sharp decline in global economic growth (let alone recession) could very well bring some serious headwinds.

Topdown Charts

On the other hand, although it's too early to pave anything in stone, it surely looks as if a new era (favoring Commodities over Stocks) has begun.

You may have missed the first inning, but there's still plenty of time to get involved in this potentially decade-long upcoming move.

although it's too early to pave anything in stone, it surely looks as if a new era (favoring Commodities over Stocks) has begun.

Optima

Back to the stock market as a whole.

For now, the long-term risk-off environment remains intact.

For now, the long-term risk-off environment remains intact.

Optima

Until the short-term flows over to the longer timeframe, this is still an environment that is calling for a lower exposure to risky assets.

US cycle short leading indicator (forecast of growth, based on rates, commodities and USD) vs ISM.

There's now a high probability for a drastic economic slowdown (aka recession) thanks to excessive tightening.

Another, just as important aspect, is how long such a slowdown/recession will be, and that is likely to be determined by (how much) corporate earnings get crushed.

There's now a high probability for a drastic economic slowdown (aka recession) thanks to excessive tightening.

Julien Bittel

Note that the percentage of Bears (Bulls) is now higher (lower) than even the March 2020 peak (trough) level!

the percentage of Bears (Bulls) is now higher (lower) than even the March 2020 peak (trough) level!

Optima

Btw, so are supply chain disruptions...

Global Supply Chain Disruptions have surged since the pandemic

FT

Healthcare: A Hybrid Sector, Tilted to Value

Healthcare sector, represented by Health Care Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEARCA:XLV), is a bit of a mix.

On one hand, it's predominantly based on "Value, non-Cyclicals, Large-caps".

On the other hand, it has significant allocation to "Growth, Cyclicals, Small-caps", mainly through the Biotechnology, Healthcare Equipment and Technology industries.

Healthcare Sector - Industry Classifications

Corporate Finance Institute

Below you can see the weighting of the sector within the SPX and what industries are making the whole, as of May 27 (Source: S&P GICS data).

Sector / Industry Weighting in S&P 500 / Sector
Healthcare 14.49%
Biotechnology 14.34%
Healthcare Distributors 2.00%
Healthcare Equipment 18.05%
Healthcare Facilities 1.19%
Healthcare Services 5.18%
Healthcare Supplies 0.92%
Healthcare Technology 0.55%
Life Sciences Tools & Services 12.77%
Managed Healthcare 14.33%
Pharmaceuticals 30.66%

If Healthcare is "predominantly based on Value, non-Cyclicals, Large-caps", the sector allegedly deserves to be treated the same way other non-cyclical sectors, most notably Utilities (XLU) and Consumer Staples (XLP), are.

Although the sector has come a long way (as 2022 progresses), clawing its way back from the lower half to the upper half (among the SPX sectors performance ranking), it's still lagging behind its colleagues.

Sector Performance YTD

Charles Schwab

XLV: Making a Portfolio Healthier

As of June 15, only 14.4% of XLV's AuM are allocated to Biotechnology.

Sector Weight
Pharmaceuticals 31.34%
Health Care Providers & Services 22.85%
Health Care Equipment & Supplies 18.73%
Biotechnology 14.40%
Life Sciences Tools & Services 12.67%

Out of the fund's 64 holdings (as of June 15), only 8 are defined as "Biotechnology":

Name Ticker Weight (%)
AbbVie Inc. ABBV 5.300764
Amgen Inc. AMGN 2.881227
Gilead Sciences Inc. GILD 1.590357
Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated VRTX 1.40133
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. REGN 1.300388
Moderna Inc. MRNA 0.984448
Biogen Inc. BIIB 0.629177
Incyte Corporation INCY 0.280022

2022, thus far, isn't the best of year for XLV, just as it isn't for the entire market.

Since its inception on Dec 16 1998, XLV has been tracking the Health Care Select Sector Index fairly closely, although over time costs are eating into the performance.

Fund 1 Month QTD YTD 1 Year 3 Year 5 Year 10 Year Since Inception
NAV 1.43% -3.34% -5.85% 8.53% 16.94% 13.59% 15.75% 9.09%
Price 1.46% -3.33% -5.81% 8.57% 16.97% 13.60% 15.75% 9.10%
Index 1.44% -3.34% -5.83% 8.68% 17.12% 13.75% 15.93% 9.32%

A difference of 0.22% between the index's annual performance to the fund's annual price change comes up to 5.3% when measured over 23.5 years.

Still ,XLV has done a fantastic job over the years and the fund has outperformed SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) by over 200% (!) since its inception.

Chart
Data by YCharts

XBI: Making a Portfolio Riskier

Just like XLV, the SPDR S&P Biotech ETF (NYSEARCA:XBI) also belongs to the same investment manager - State Street (STT).

Since its inception on Jan 31 2006, XBI has been tracking the S&P Biotechnology Select Industry Index very closely, (and unlike XLV) with a minor difference over time.

Fund 1 Month QTD YTD 1 Year 3 Year 5 Year 10 Year Since Inception
NAV -6.75% -23.52% -38.51% -46.22% -4.57% 0.44% 10.24% 9.45%
Price -6.79% -23.54% -38.54% -46.28% -4.58% 0.45% 10.23% 9.45%
Index -6.74% -23.49% -38.45% -46.08% -4.48% 0.49% 10.06% 9.47%

Nonetheless, the return of XBI since inception (9.45%) is only 0.35% higher than that of XLV since inception.

Does that gap justify taking the much higher risk involved with investing in Biotech? Probably not, especially when you add the element of income.

Since pharma stocks are mostly high-dividend payers as opposed to biotech, where most companies don't pay any dividend, the difference in total return is even more staggering (than the small price gap in favor of XBI).

since XBI inception, XLV has performed better than XBI (or iShares Biotechnology ETF (<a href='https://seekingalpha.com/symbol/IBB' title='iShares Biotechnology ETF'>IBB</a>) for that matter)

Y-Charts

As a matter of fact, since XBI inception, XLV has performed better than XBI (or iShares Biotechnology ETF (IBB) for that matter). Not only have investors in XLV got a total return greater by 86%, but taking into consideration that XLV is less risky (volatile) than XBI - it was a no brainer to choose XLV over XBI.

Chart
Data by YCharts

With 156 holdings (As of June 15), XBI is more diversified than XLV, which is not a big surprise taking into consideration that many biotech names are small-caps.

If the stock market stinks over the past 6 months or so, those investing in Biotech are already suffering for a couple of years, especially over the past 16 months.

If the stock market stinks over the past 6 months or so, those investing in Biotech are already suffering for a couple of years, especially over the past 16 months.

Y-Charts

If you were investing in Biotech over the past 5 years - your total return is flat.

If you were investing in Biotech over the past 5 years - your total return is flat.

State Street

That, naturally, has pushed many investors out of the Biotech arena, and it's safe to say that it's one of the most-hated spaces among the stock market.

Nevertheless, we mustn't forget that had we done this analysis in early February 2021, when XBI peaked, the results would be looking way different, in favor of Biotech.

Putting it differently, timing is everything and Biotech - whether you like it or not - has its time.

Biotech: Easy Come, Easy Go

Below charts contain a list of leading/popular Healthcare ETFs representing various segments within the sector.

We're focusing on how Biotech has been performing relative to its peers.

Since March 23, 2020: Accelerating fast, Cooling-off even faster...

We're focusing on how Biotech has been performing relative to its peers. Since March 23, 2020: Accelerating fast, Cooling-off even faster...

Y-Charts, Author

YTD: Nothing to be proud of.

Biotech YTD: Nothing to be proud of

Y-Charts, Author

Biotech has the largest drawdown among all healthcare ETFs.

Biotech has the largest drawdown among all healthcare ETFs.

Y-Charts, Author

Past week: Too early to call this "signs of recovery".

Chart
Data by YCharts

Reasons to be Bullish (long-term) on Healthcare/Biotech

1. Generally speaking, stocks are still at a high risk but no longer overvalued.

SPX forward P/E ratio is right at its 10-year average.

SPX forward P/E ratio is right at its 10-year average

FactSet

2. Corporate America is still earning decent money.

SPX's forward earnings yield relative to UST10Y is still firmly positive.

SPX's forward earnings yield relative to UST10Y is still firmly positive.

Bloomberg

3. Run to Safety/Value may have gone too far.

Forward P/E ratios of Utilities and Consumer Staples are >20% and >10%, respectively, than their 10-year averages. Healthcare forward P/E is less than 4% higher than the sector's 10-year average.

Forward P/E ratios of Utilities and Consumer Staples are higher than that of Technology. Healthcare is way cheaper.

Forward P/E ratios of Utilities and Consumer Staples are higher than that of Technology. Healthcare is way cheaper.

FactSet

4. The biotech sector is experiencing the most severe downturn of at least the last 20 years.

There have been many other downturns in the more recent past, but this one is different.

Biotech performance (XBI) by market capitalization since Feb 2021 peak through May 24th, 2022.

Biotech performance (<a href='https://seekingalpha.com/symbol/XBI' title='SPDR S&P Biotech ETF'>XBI</a>) by market capitalization since Feb 2021 peak through May 24th, 2022.

Peter Kolchinsky

Here Peter Kolchinsky discusses why - and how we’ll rebound.

5. Technically speaking, it's fairly clear what we should do.

Easier when it comes to Healthcare.

Technically speaking, it's fairly clear what we should do. Easier when it comes to Healthcare.

Y-Charts, Author

More complicated when it comes to Biotech.

More complicated when it comes to Biotech.

Y-Charts, Author

Macro Trading Factory is a macro-driven service, led by The Macro Teller and RoseNose.

The service offers two portfolios: “Funds Macro Portfolio” and “Rose's Income Garden”; both aim to outperform the SPY on a risk-adjusted basis, in a relaxed manner.

Suitable for those who either have little time/knowledge/desire to manage a portfolio on their own, and/or wish to get exposed to the market in a simple, though more risk-oriented (less volatile), way.

Each of our portfolios, spanning across all sectors, offers you a hassle-free, easy to understand and execute, solution.

Macro Trading Factory for an Upward Trajectory!

This article was written by

The Macro Teller profile picture
1.83K Followers
Looking to outperform the SPY on a risk-adjusted basis, in a relaxed manner

Welcome to my profile and thanks for stopping by!

First and foremost, let's clarify two important points that you might currently find confusing:

1. "Macro Trading Factory" ("MTF") by "The Macro Teller" ("TMT") is the second service we offer after the "Wheel of FORTUNE" ("WoF") by "The Fortune Teller" ("TFT").

2. TFT and TMT are the same person. It's due to SA policy that we need to open two profiles in order to run two services, but rest assured we don't suffer from schizophrenia (as of yet)...

TMT is an account that represents a business which is mostly focuses on portfolio- and asset- management. The business is run by two principals that (among the two of them) hold BAs in Accounting & Economics, and Computer Sciences, as well as MBAs. One of the two is also a licensed CPA (although many years have gone by since he was practicing), and has/had been a licensed investment adviser in various countries, including the US (Series 7 & 66).

On a combined basis, the two principals lived and worked for at least three years in three other-different countries/continents, holding senior-managerial positions across various industries/activities:

On one hand/principal, IT, R&D, Cloud, AI/ML, Security/Fraud, Scalability, Enterprise Software, Agile Methodologies, and Mobile Applications.

On the other hand/principal, Accounting, Banking, Wealth Management, Portfolio Management and Fund Management.

Currently, they run a business which is mainly focusing on active portfolio/fund/asset management as well as providing consulting/advisory services. The business, co-founded in 2011, is also occasionally getting involved in real estate and early-stage (start-up) investments.

The people who work in and for this business are an integral and essential part of the services that we offer on SA Marketplace platform: Wheel of Fortune, and Market Trading Factory. While TMT (or TFT for that matter) is the single "face" behind these services, it's important for readers/subscribers to know that what they get is not a "one-man-show" rather the end-result of an ongoing, relentless, team effort.

We strongly believe that successful investors must have/perform Discipline, Patience, and Consistency (or "DCP"). We adhere to those rigorously.

The contributor RoseNose is both a contributing and promoting author for Macro Trading Factory. 

On a more personal note...

We're advising and consulting to private individuals, mostly (U)HNWI that we had been serving through many years of working within the private banking, wealth management and asset management arenas. This activity focuses on the long run and it's mostly based on a Buy & Hold strategy.

Risk management is part of our DNA and while we normally take LONG-naked positions, we play defense too, by occasionally hedging our positions, in order to protect the downside.

We cover all asset-classes by mostly focusing on cash cows and high dividend paying "machines" that may generate high (total) returns: Interest-sensitive, income-generating, instruments, e.g. Bonds, REITs, BDCs, Preferred Shares, MLPs, etc. combined with a variety of high-risk, growth and value stocks.

We believe in, and invest for, the long run but we're very minded of the short run too. While it's possible to make a massive-quick "kill", here and there, good things usually come in small packages (and over time); so do returns. Therefore, we (hope but) don't expect our investments to double in value over a short period of time. We do, however, aim at outperforming the S&P 500, on a risk adjusted basis, and to deliver positive returns on an absolute basis, i.e. regardless of markets' returns and directions.

Note: "Aim" doesn't equate guarantee!!! We can't, and never will, promise a positive return!!! Everything that we do is on a "best effort" basis, without any assurance that the actual results would meet our good intentions.

Timing is Everything! While investors can't time the market, we believe that this applies only to the long term. In the short-term (a couple of months) one can and should pick the right moment and the right entry point, based on his subjective-personal preferences, risk aversion and goals. Long-term, strategy/macro, investment decisions can't be timed while short-term, implementation/micro, investment decision, can!

When it comes to investments and trading we believe that the most important virtues are healthy common sense, general wisdom, sufficient research, vast experience, strive for excellence, ongoing willingness to learn, minimum ego, maximum patience, ability to withstand (enormous) pressure/s, strict discipline and a lot of luck!...

Follow

Disclosure: I/we have a beneficial long position in the shares of FUNDS MACRO PORTFOLIO ("FMP") either through stock ownership, options, or other derivatives. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: TipRanks: BUY XLV, VHT, IBB, XBI, IHI, ARKG, IXJ, IYH, FHLC, BBH, IHF, XLB, KWEB, MCHI, FXI, DBA, DBB, DBC, DBP, GSG, GDX, GDXJ, SIL, SILJ.

Recommended For You

Comments (37)

To ensure this doesn’t happen in the future, please enable Javascript and cookies in your browser.
Is this happening to you frequently? Please report it on our feedback forum.
If you have an ad-blocker enabled you may be blocked from proceeding. Please disable your ad-blocker and refresh.