As of 2015, no exchange-traded funds (ETFs) exclusively track the chemical sector, but ETFs are available that track chemical companies alongside other manufacturing and materials companies. The top chemical ETFs include Market Vectors Agribusiness (MOO), Materials Select Sector SPDR (XLB), iShares DJ US Basic Materials (IYM), Vanguard Materials (VAW) and Powershares Global Agriculture (PAGG). These ETFs all include exposure to chemical companies.
ETFs offer investors an opportunity to spread their investments across multiple companies, thereby reducing the risks associated with investment. These securities work similarly to mutual funds but are passively managed. In other words, ETFs do not have financial managers actively trading securities for the fund. Instead, ETFs track a sector just like an index. Rates of return for ETFs are similar to the whole sector's average return. Chemical ETFs, then, track the chemical sector and offer returns similar to the industry average. These ETFs also follow other manufacturing companies with substantial chemical use, which may interest investors looking to purchase chemical securities.
XLB, IYM and VAW all have similar holdings, with significant proportions of their total holdings invested in Dow Chemical, DuPont and other chemical companies. MOO and PAGG focus on the agriculture sector and offer exposure to companies manufacturing chemicals for agricultural production. XLB is the most common materials sector ETF, managing assets of around $5.2 billion. A total of 32 securities are included in the fund, with Dow Chemical represented by approximately 10% of the fund. About 75% of the assets are within the chemical sector, so XLB tracks the industry fairly closely. IYM has 61 securities and is also around 75% chemical. The remainder of these two funds is invested in mining and materials sector companies. VAW, however, is 21.6% specialty chemical, with the rest of the fund heavily invested in diversified and agriculture chemicals along with raw materials companies.
Many manufacturing companies rely heavily on chemical production and may provide additional investment opportunity. The automotive sector consumes 10% of all chemicals, and automotive ETFs may be another means of gaining exposure to chemical companies outside the sector. Agricultural businesses use products produced by the industry to increase crop yields. Electronics companies need chemicals for producing microchips, consumer electronics, industrial electronics and other electronic equipment.
Growing consumer demand fuels growth in these industries and, by extension, increases chemical product demand as well. Investing in manufacturing ETFs may further reduce the risk of investing in one sector while providing exposure to the returns offered by the chemical industry. This option provides investors with additional investment opportunity outside the chemical sector while also investing in chemical companies.