Signs of Life?

By Traders Huddle | June 01, 2012 AAA

To say the PowerShares QQQ (NASDAQ: QQQ) is an important fund within the ETF landscape is an understatement. Home to over $29 billion in assets under management, QQQ was the sixth-largest U.S.-listed ETF at the end of April. Not only that, but QQQ is commonly known as THE Nasdaq 100 tracking ETF. With an allocation of almost 19% to Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), one of the largest weights of any ETF to that particular stock, QQQ is also known to be one of the ETFs investors use as an Apple proxy when they can't afford Apple $500+ price tag.

Those superlatives notwithstanding, times have been tough lately for the Nasdaq and QQQ. In the past month, the fund has tumbled 6.5%. Since the end of April, investors have pulled about $3.5 billion in cash out of the fund.

Compounding those woes is the fact that the technology sector is traditionally vulnerable to a bout of the summertime blues. Said differently, the May-July time frame is usually quite harsh to tech stocks and if those summertime blues come to pass, QQQ could be in big trouble. For now, support seems firm at $61.75, but a few closes below there would mean QQQ probably retests its 200-day moving average just below $60.

Of course, if all of those bad things are happening, it probably means there's something wrong with Apple and that would mean there's something wrong with the entire market. That's one way of saying that Apple is the tail that wags QQQ's dog. Humorous animal clichés aside, Apple highlights the risk/reward scenario with QQQ.

Given the ETF's large weight to the tech juggernaut and the fact that its reasonable expense ratio and excellent liquidity allow QQQ to be a suitable Apple replacement ETF, QQQ is one of the places investors want to be when Apple is surging higher. However, the rub in that scenario is only one or two other ETFs are more vulnerable when Apple pulls back.

The big question regarding Apple right isn't the stock's compelling valuation and sterling fundamentals. Those are known quantities. The biggest concern is price action, as in what will happen first: Apple falling to $500 or rising back to its all-time at $644? The fall to $500 would move QQQ by at least 5%. In this hypothetical scenario, there would likely be nothing Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) or any of QQQ's other marquee holdings could do to stem the tide of selling.

For long side investors, hopefully that won't happen. Just remember, so goes Apple, so goes QQQ.

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