Lately, I’ve been fielding a great many questions related to automobile companies. Had I seen the 5-year highs on car purchases? Am I aware that autos were the strongest segment in 2012 retail? And what’s the best ETF for capturing the inevitable growth?
In truth, I’m not necessarily convinced that the U.S. auto sector will continue along the same robust path. Government backing and a commitment to fuel efficiency may have brought Ford and GM back into play. Yet it is the inexpensive financing that deserves the lion’s share of credit in an auto recovery.
Keep in mind, as early as the 2nd half of 2013, the Federal Reserve may outline its exit plans from unconventional easing. Even if the Fed does not begin to raise rates — even if the cessation of bond-buying is a year or more away, markets may begin to factor in a slowdown in consumer activity.
Perhaps fortunately, the First Trust’s Global Auto Index Fund (CARZ) is truly global. The fund tracks an index of 35 manufacturers, with 37% exposure to Japanese corporations, 17% to U.S. companies and to 16% German manufacturers.
At present, this exchange-traded vehicle is severely overbought and ripe for a pullback. It is 20% above its 200-day moving average. (Double-digit percentages are bad enough.) Meanwhile, the Relative Strength Index (RSI) readings on the current CARZ price is also flashing high beam warnings.
The 0.70% expense ratio on CARZ also makes me cringe. I rarely consider ETF investments that grab more than 0.5%, and there are times when I am reluctant about anything above the iShares/Vanguard/State Street norms. On the other hand, CARZ sports a price-to-book of 1.16 and a price-to-sales of 0.35. There’s nothing particularly expensive about that.
At the very least, I would wait for a pullback to the 50-day moving average before committing new money. Believe me, a patient investor will wait for an 8%-10% sell-off.
Additionally, one may wish to play autos from an entirely different angle. One might consider ETFS Physical Palladium (PALL).
Autos require palladium for catalytic converters. Many analysts maintain that palladium demand is so strongly related to the cyclical nature of auto sales, one cannot even separate the two.
In reality, palladium is in a wide variety of consumer products, including computers, cell phones and jewelry. It follows that PALL may be a means by which one invests in increasing materials demand for improvements in the global economy at large.
It may be interesting for folks to note, PALL would have to rise 20% to revisit its 2011 highs. In many ways, the multi-faceted industrial metal is in a similar situation to some emerging market investments.