Comprised of stocks focused on software and services, communications and electronic equipment, semiconductors and more, the information technology sector underwent important changes in recent months. Many of the largest companies that were in the sector have moved to the communications category. Nonetheless, the tech sector provided a substantial portion of the overall gains to the stock market throughout much of 2018. Of course, in the last several weeks of the year, a variety of economic and geopolitical factors conspired to drive the overall market downward.
For investors looking to capture some of the momentum of the information technology sector, a great way to gain broad exposure is through a focused exchange-traded fund (ETF). ETFs centering on the information technology sector in 2018 faced many of the same struggles as funds focused on other industries and sectors, too. Although many funds performed well throughout most of the year, substantial losses heading into 2019 forced many of these ETFs into losses for 2018.
Below, we'll take a look at the five top performers among information technology ETFs. We'll compare these funds to the S&P 500 Information Technology Index, which saw an average return of -3.7%.
1. Invesco Dynamic Software ETF (PSJ)
Returns for 2018: +15.5%
2. iShares Expanded Tech-Software Sector ETF (IGV)
Returns for 2018: +11.2%
3. SPDR S&P Software & Services ETF (XSW)
Returns for 2018: +7.5%
4. SPDR FactSet Innovative Technology ETF (XITK)
Returns for 2018: +6.0%
5. First Trust Cloud Computing ETF (SKYY)
Returns for 2018: +5.8%
Invesco Dynamic Software ETF
With overall gains of 15.54% across 2018, the Invesco Dynamic Software ETF (PSJ) was the best performer among its information technology sector peers. This fund focuses on U.S. software companies, selecting a pool of 30 stocks using a quantitative model. PSJ's selection process considers factors including stock valuation, style classification, risk factors and more. It tends to focus on small-growth companies, with about a third of its $228 million asset pool focused on either small-cap or micro-cap stocks. PSJ balances out its focus on software companies with exposure to IT services, consulting and other related businesses.
PSJ was founded in June of 2005. It carries an expense ratio of 0.63% and an average daily volume of $5.45 million.
iShares Expanded Tech-Software Sector ETF
Coming in at second place among information technology ETFs in terms of overall returns in 2018 is the iShares Expanded Tech-Software Sector ETF (IGV). IGV focuses on North American software companies, with a market-cap weighted index of both Canadian and U.S. stocks. Any individual security can be weighted at no more than 8.5%, ensuring that IGV offers investors a strongly diversified portfolio. IGV tends not to focus on software giants but rather on smaller, fast-growing companies. Besides that, with assets under management of $1.64 billion, IGV offers investors access to a fund that is large and highly liquid. IGV offered overall returns of 11.20% for the duration of 2018.
IGV launched in July of 2001 and carries an expense ratio of 0.47%. Some of its top names as of this writing include Microsoft, Oracle, Adobe and Intuit.
SPDR S&P Software & Services ETF
The SPDR S&P Software & Services ETF (XSW) is the third-place information technology ETF for 2018, having generated returns of 7.46% for the year. XSW attempts to offset the software industry's concentrated focus on a small number of large, dominant companies by both including services firms and by equal-weighting its portfolio. This effectively redistributes what would be a heavy concentration in top companies. With an expense ratio of just 0.35%, XSW is less expensive for investors than many similar funds. However, it only maintains just under $116 million in its asset base as of this writing, and its average daily trading volume is just over $1.3 million.
XSW was launched in September of 2011 and currently tracks an index of 141 different software and software-related companies.
SPDR FactSet Innovative Technology ETF
A second SPDR information technology ETF from State Street also ranks among the top five performers for 2018. The SPDR FactSet Innovative Technology ETF (XITK) returned 6.04% for the year. This fund targets U.S.based technology and electronic media companies. The catch, however, is that XITK only focuses on those companies which have been categorized as innovative or disruptive by data analytics and software company FactSet. In order to earn this classification, a company must derive at least 50% of its revenue from IT services, software or hardware manufacturing and related services. Companies must also belong to sub-industries with top quartile revenue growth in both 1 and 3 year periods.
XITK is a small fund, with just $53.92 million in assets under management. It launched in January of 2016 and carries an expense ratio of 0.45%.
First Trust Cloud Computing ETF
The last entry in our list of top performers in the information technology ETF space is unique among its competitors. The First Trust Cloud Computing ETF (SKYY), which generated returns of 5.77% for 2018, is currently the only ETF on the market which focuses on cloud computing. As might be expected of a fund focused on a rapidly changing industry, its portfolio includes a broad mixture of different companies. Some of SKYY's names, for instance, are technology companies which generally make use of cloud computing, while others are pure-play businesses.
SKYY was launched in July of 2011 and carries an expense ratio of 0.60%. It currently maintains assets under management of just over $1.6 billion.