While the U.S. is out of the World Cup, there’s still something to cheer about. The stock markets are on a tear.
“The major indexes cruised to new all-time highs more times than one can count in 2014, and with minimal volatility,” said Ben Warwick, contributing editor of quantitative equity strategies for Searching for Alpha in a recent blog.
Different asset classes, of course, have produced different returns so far in 2014.
Here’s a look at the five top-performing categories within the equity universe and some of the associated ETFs, several of which have topped the results of their respective indexes.
1. Value Plays
The Russell 1000 Value Index produced the top index performance in the first six months of the year, according to Searching for Alpha: 8.3%.
The index measures the performance of the large-cap value segment of the U.S. equity universe, meaning those with lower price-to-book ratios and lower expected growth values.
In May, some of the group’s best performers were T-Mobile, St. Joe Co. and Electronic Arts.
ETFs that track the index include the iShares Russell 1000 Value ETF (IWD).
Russell 1000 Value ETF is up nearly 9% for the past six months, while Russell Top 200 Value is close behind at 8%. VTV has improved about 7.5%, while SCHV is trailing at 6.5%.
2. Power of the S&P
The S&P 500 is on a tear, topping 1,981 on Monday morning. The index is up 7.4% year to date.
The index recently added Martin Marietta Materials and booted US Steel.
It includes many of the members of the Russell 1000 as its largest components (like Exxon, General Electric, J&J, Chevron, Wells Fargo, Berkshire Hathaway, P&G and JPMorgan).
But Apple and Microsoft are also prominent on its constituent list.
Related ETFs that are outperforming it include the PowerShares S&P 500 High Beta Portfolio (SPHB) at about 10%, the Guggenheim S&P 500 Equal Weight ETF (RSP) at 8%, and the PowerShares S&P Low Volatility Portfolio (SPLV) at 7.5%.
The PowerShares S&P 500 High Quality Portfolio (SPHQ) is not keeping up, though, at roughly 5%.
3. Good Growth
The Russell 1000 Growth Index is trailing its value-focused counterpart, but still produced a return of 6.3% in the first six months of the year.
This large-cap index includes companies with higher price-to-book ratios and higher forecasted growth values than their peers.
Its largest constituents are Apple, Microsoft, Verizon, IBM, Coca-Cola, Google, Philip Morris, Oracle and Qualcomm.
In May, some of its best-performing members were Hillshire Brands, St. Joe, Netflix, Rackspace, Electronic Arts, Cheniere Energy and TripAdvisor.
4. Tech Time
High-tech firms are having a good 2014 with a sector return of about 7.3% (including reinvested dividends), analysts say. The NASDAQ Composite, according to Searching for Alpha, is up 6.2% in the first six months of 2014.
This also tops the performance of the financial sector’s 4% return year to date.
The PowerShares QQQ ETF (QQQ) tracks the 100 largest companies listed on Nasdaq and excludes financial firms; it is up nearly 9%. The First Trust Nasdaq 100 Equal Weighted ETF (QQEW) is performing at this level as well.
The PowerShares Buyback Achievers ETF (PKW), which tracks the Nasdaq index of the same name, is not keeping up, with returns of about 6% in early 2014.
5. EAFE Exuberance
The MSCI EAFE Index — covering Europe, Australia and the Far East — rose about 5% in first half of the year.
It captures large-cap and mid-cap stocks across the world’s developed markets countries, excluding multinational companies based in the U.S. and Canada.
Of its roughly 900 constituents, the top 10 holdings (as of May) were Nestle, Roche, Novartis, HSBC, BP, Toyota, Shell, Total, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi.
By country, its main holdings had their headquarters in the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Germany and Switzerland.
In 2013, the EAFE index improved about 23%. It was up roughly 4% as of May.
The iShares EAFE ETF (EFA) and the iShares EAFE Value ETF (EFV) are both trading up about 4.5% so far in 2014, slightly behind the index. The iShares Core EAFE ETF (IEFA) and the iShares EAFE Growth ETF (EFG), though, are keeping up with the index and have improved about 5% in the first half.
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