QQQ ETF Risks and Rewards

The Invesco QQQ ETF is an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that tracks the Nasdaq 100 Index. Because it passively follows the index, the QQQ share price goes up and down along with the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100.

Passive management keeps fees low, and investors are rewarded with the full gains of the volatile index if it rises. But they also have to bear the Nasdaq 100's full losses when it falls. In this article, we explain how the QQQ ETF works and then consider the risks and rewards associated with trading the QQQ.

Key Takeaways

  • The Invesco QQQ ETF is a popular exchange-traded fund that tracks the Nasdaq 100 Index.
  • QQQ holdings are dominated by big technology-related companies such as Apple, Amazon, Google, and Meta (formerly Facebook).
  • The QQQ ETF offers investors big rewards during bull markets, the potential for long-term growth, ready liquidity, and low fees.
  • QQQ usually declines more in bear markets, has high sector risk, often appears overvalued, and holds no small-cap stocks.
  • This ETF allows traders to invest in the largest 100 non-financial companies listed on the Nasdaq.

What Is the Invesco QQQ ETF?

QQQ is an ETF that tracks the Nasdaq 100 Index. It has 102 holdings and is the fourth-most popular ETF in the world. The index excludes financial companies and is based on market capitalization. Like the Nasdaq 100, QQQ holdings are heavily weighted toward large-cap technology companies. Assets under management (AUM) at QQQ were $154 billion as of Q3 2022.

The Invesco QQQ ETF was previously known as the PowerShares QQQ Trust ETF. It is also informally called the triple-Qs or the cubes. The QQQ ETF is often viewed as a snapshot of how the technology sector is trading.

The Nasdaq 100 Index that the QQQ share price follows is based on a modified capitalization methodology. This modified method uses individual weights of included items according to their market capitalization. Weighting allows constraints to limit the influence of the largest companies and balance the index with all of its members. To accomplish this, Nasdaq reviews the composition of the index each quarter and adjusts weightings if the distribution requirements are not met.

The Invesco QQQ ETF, as opposed to the actual Nasdaq 100 Index, is a marketable security that trades on an exchange. It offers traders a way to invest in the 100 largest non-financial companies listed on the Nasdaq.

QQQ ETF Quick Facts
Ticker QQQ
Tracked Index Nasdaq 100
 Inception Date 03/10/1999
 Expense Ratio 0.20% 
# Holdings 103
Brand Invesco
Avg. Daily Volume $14.3 billion

QQQ ETF Sectors

The Invesco QQQ ETF tracks many high-tech sectors, including information technology (IT), communications services, and healthcare. The QQQ is rebalanced quarterly and reconstituted annually to track the Nasdaq 100 index.

It is important to remember that some of the companies people associate with technology are generally classified in other sectors. For example, Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL, Google's parent company) and Meta Platforms, Inc. (META, formerly known as Facebook) are under the communications services sector. Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) is part of the consumer discretionary sector.

Trading the QQQ ETF is a good way to get the rewards of investing in technology stocks without the risks of betting on individual companies.

The sector breakdown of the Invesco QQQ ETF as of Sept. 30, 2022, appears in the table below.

Invesco QQQ ETF Sector Breakdown
Sector Share of QQQ
Information Technology 30.51%
Electronics and Hardware 28.46%
Retail Trade 11.45%
Healthcare 6.32%
Consumer Durables 5.18%
Consumer Services 4.83%
Consumer Non-Durables 4.36%
Industrials 2.59%
Communications 1.60%
Utilities 1.52%
As of Sept. 30, 2022

QQQ ETF Top Holdings

The top 10 stocks in the Invesco QQQ ETF made up about 52% of all QQQ holdings as of Q3 2022. They are given in the table below.

The top holding of the QQQ ETF holding is Apple Inc. (AAPL). The Cupertino company had a market cap of over $2.5 trillion in Q3 2022. Its future prospects look bright as a blockbuster lineup of products continues to mint profits for the company.

Meanwhile, Microsoft Corporation (MSFT), Alphabet, and Amazon all have strong operating cash flow. Most of these top stock holdings consistently deliver on the bottom line and are able to navigate change without causing harm to their investors. Microsoft has successfully reinvented itself, moving away from legacy products like Windows to cloud-based Azure.

Invesco QQQ ETF Top Holdings
Stock Share of QQQ
Apple (AAPL) 14.01%
Microsoft (MSFT) 10.28%
Alphabet (GOOG & GOOGL) 6.97%
Amazon (AMZN) 6.72%
Tesla Inc. (TSLA) 4.96%
Facebook/Meta (META) 2.78%
Nvidia Corp. (NVDA) 2.54%
PepsiCo (PEP) 2.24%
Costco (COST) 1.99%
Broadcom (BRCM) 1.82%
As of Sept. 30, 2022

QQQ Dividend History

QQQ Dividend History Since 2003
 Year  1st Quarter  2nd Quarter  3rd Quarter  4th Quarter
 2003  - - - $0.013
 2004  - - - $0.37
 2005  -  $0.034  -  $0.10
 2006  $0.0291  $0.257  $0.0234  $0.544
 2007  $0.0267  $0.0369  $0.026  $0.053
 2008  $0.032  $0.034  $0.028  $0.043
 2009  $0.048  $0.043  $0.40  $0.077
 2010  $0.051 $0.089  $0.111  $0.108
 2011  $0.076  $0.120  $0.104  $0.160
 2012  $0.112  $0.143  $0.200  $0.366
 2013  $0.159  $0.223  $0.237  $0.272
 2014  $0.373  $0.206  $0.249  $0.237
 2015  $0.248  $0.254  $0.260  $0.342
 2016  $0.317  $0.286  $0.293  $0.354
 2017  $0.274  $0.378  $0.319  $0.329
 2018  $0.276  $0.378  $0.329  $0.420
 2019  $0.324  $0.415  $0.384  $0.457
2020 $0.362 $0.424 $0.388 $0.561
2021 $0.394 $0.396 $0.413 $0.491
2022 $0.434 $0.527 $0.519

QQQ Pros and Cons

Like most assets, the QQQ ETF has specific strengths and weaknesses that investors need to consider before putting it in their portfolios.

QQQ Pros

  • Big bull market rewards: If you're feeling bullish right now or want a bullish investment for an asset allocation, the QQQ ETF is a good choice. The QQQ price often goes up more than the S&P 500 does during bull markets, making it useful for sector rotation strategies. According to investment firm Morningstar, Inc. (MORN), for example, QQQ captured 113% of the iShares Russell 1000 Growth Index's upside and 107% of its downside in the 10 years leading up through April 2021.
  • Long-term growth potential: QQQ holdings include many companies that develop new technologies, such as computers and zero-emission vehicles. That gives the QQQ ETF more potential for long-term growth. QQQ is also much more diversified across the growth technology sector. This means that it is safer to diversify capital allocation in the tech sector through investment in QQQ as opposed to making individual investments.
  • Liquidity: Frequent traders need to buy and sell quickly at a low cost. The QQQ ETF offers them this liquidity. AUM for QQQ reached more than $154 billion in 2022, providing a large market for traders.
  • Low expenses: The QQQ ETF's expense ratio was 0.2% as of Q3 2022. Reducing the expense ratio is the only guaranteed way to increase returns from fund investments because expenses can add up over time.

QQQ Cons

  • High bear market risk: Just as QQQ tends to outperform the S&P 500 during bull markets, it also often underperforms it during bear markets. In particular, the QQQ share price declined significantly when the dotcom bubble collapsed.
  • Volatility risk: Tech sector stocks are growth stocks and are more volatile compared to the rest of the market. As a result, the Nasdaq 100 also makes many more daily, monthly, and annual significant moves compared to other indexes, such as the S&P 500. For example, the fund had annual returns of -0.14% in 2018 and 39.12% in 2019.
  • Nasdaq-only focus: The fund has a Nasdaq-only focus and excludes successful tech companies listed on other exchanges. For example, Salesforce.com, Inc. (CRM), which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), is not included in the index. Neither are Oracle Corporation (ORCL) nor Block, Inc. (SQ), both of which are listed on the same exchange.
  • Sector risk: The root cause of the QQQ ETF's high risks and rewards is that it places more weight on volatile technology-related sectors than the S&P 500 does. There is also a sector risk that Nasdaq 100 stocks will eventually become less important, much like the railroad companies that once dominated the Dow Jones Transportation Average (DJTA). Investors already talk about old tech stocks versus mostly newer FAANG stocks within the Nasdaq.
  • High valuation levels: QQQ holdings tend to be too expensive by most of the standards value investors use. For example, QQQ had a price-to-earnings ratio of 30.43 as of Oct. 30, 2021.
  • No small-cap stocks: Because the QQQ ETF holds only 100 of the Nasdaq's largest companies, it necessarily excludes small-cap stocks. Small caps outperformed larger companies in the long run, according to research by Fama and French. Furthermore, growth investing also emphasizes small companies because they have more room to grow.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Trading in QQQ?

Pros
  • Big bull market rewards

  • Long-term growth potential

  • Liquidity

  • Low expenses

Cons
  • High bear market risk

  • Sector risk

  • High valuation levels

  • No small-cap stocks

  • Volatility risk

  • Nasdaq-only focus

QQQ Performance

Being more heavily-weighted to growth stocks and high-tech sectors, the Nasdaq 100 (and by extension the QQQ ETF, which tracks the index) has outperformed the broader S&P 500 over the past several years.

As the chart below depicts, over the five-year period from Q3 2017 through Q3 2022, the QQQ has returned a total of 88.7%, about double what the SPY (the S&P 500 ETF) has returned.

QQQ vs. SPY 09/2017 - 09/2022
QQQ vs. SPY 09/2017 - 09/2022.

15.9%

The average annual return of QQQ was 15.9% during the 10 years ended Q3 2022.

What Companies Make Up the QQQ ETF?

Stock holdings in the QQQ ETF include 100 of the biggest companies in the Nasdaq, which tend to be tech giants such as Apple, Amazon, Google, and Meta. The top 10 stocks in the portfolio make up over half of its total holdings.

Is QQQ a Good ETF to Buy?

The QQQ ETF is an excellent buy for frequent bullish traders because of its liquidity and superior performance in bull markets. On the other hand, active traders should be aware that QQQ can lose more than the S&P 500 when it goes down. The QQQ ETF offers buy-and-hold investors low expenses and long-term growth potential with enough diversification to avoid the risks of betting on one company. On the downside, long-term investors in QQQ must deal with sector risk, possible overvaluation, and the absence of small caps. Overall, QQQ can be a good long-term investment as part of a larger portfolio.

Does QQQ Pay a Dividend?

Yes, the QQQ has quarterly dividend distributions, with an SEC yield of 0.68% as of Sept. 30, 2022.

Is QQQ the Best Nasdaq ETF?

Finding the best ETF depends on your specific investment goals. QQQ is one of the best choices for active traders who are bullish on large technology companies. It is also one of the most popular Nasdaq-tracking ETFs, although several others also exist.

The Bottom Line

The Invesco QQQ ETF checks many of the boxes short-term traders look for in ETFs, and it also has significant advantages for long-term investors. The ETF offers liquid, cost-efficient exposure to a tech-heavy basket of large-cap, innovative companies. Furthermore, investors benefit from increases in the QQQ share price without being burdened by stock-picking issues.

But those advantages are offset by sector concentration and volatility. Stocks contained within the index also have significantly high valuation levels and P/E ratios. This makes them susceptible to steep increases or declines. There are no small-cap stocks in the index to minimize the reliance on large-cap tech stocks.

Article Sources
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  2. Invesco. "QQQ."

  3. Nasdaq. "QQQ Dividend History."

  4. Morningstar. "QQQ Quote."

  5. Cision. "Invesco QQQ reaches $100 billion AUM Milestone."

  6. Yahoo Finance. QQQ Performance.

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