U.S. shoppers spent more than $10 billion in 2014 during Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving when retailers offer deals and incentives ahead of the holiday season. While brick-and-mortar sales fell about 7% in 2014, online sales jumped sharply higher to reach a record $2.4 billion. Many retailers are hoping the improving economy and expanding consumer credit will help boost these figures in 2015 and ultimately help improve corporate profits.
In this article, we’ll take a look at three mutual funds that will put money straight from consumers’ pockets into investors’ pockets.
Technology in Demand
The majority (43%) of Black-Friday shoppers intend to buy electronics, according to BestBlackFriday.com, while apparel comes in a distant second place (26%). At the same time, e-commerce sales continue to cannibalize brick-and-mortar retail sales as consumers prefer to shop from the comfort of their homes. These trends could help boost technology-focused mutual funds that hold both device-makers and e-commerce providers.
The USAA Science and Technology Fund (USSCX) provides broad exposure to the tech industry, including nearly 8% exposure to Apple Inc. (AAPL) and 2.7% exposure to Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN). With a five-star rating on Morningstar and a modest 1.18% expense ratio, the mutual fund has generated returns in excess of 10% this year, compared to a 0.25% gain in the benchmark S&P 500 index that represents the economy as a whole.
Retailers on Sale
Consumer spending may have increased just 0.1% in October, according to retail sales data released in mid-November, but the headline figure may not be entirely accurate. Due to the impact of discounting, the rise in real-dollar retail sales has been obscured, with some analysts pegging real retail sales as rising at a 3% annual clip. The savings from lower prices also are being plowed into the services sector, which now makes up 67.5% of total consumption.
The Fidelity® Select Retailing Portfolio (FSRPX) enables investors to capitalize on both the potential for Black-Friday success and the secret gains made in consumer spending, with 16.37% exposure to Home Depot Inc. (HD) and 15.65% exposure to Amazon.com. With a five-star Morningstar rating and a below-average 0.81% expense ratio, the mutual fund has dramatically outperformed the market with 15.36% gains year-to-date.
Investors looking for the cheapest exposure to the discretionary spending of consumers may want to look toward Vanguard – the leading provider of low-cost mutual funds. Often, the easiest way to increase returns is to reduce the amount being spent on mutual fund expenses or loads, which can add up over time due to the effects of compounding.
The Vanguard Consumer Discretionary Index Fund (VCDAX) has an expense ratio of just 0.09%, making it one of the lowest in the consumer discretionary sector. With exposure to Amazon.com, Walt Disney Co. (DIS) and other companies, the fund provides broader exposure than the other two funds listed above. The fund’s returns have been just 6.46% over the past year, however, due to its narrower focus, but still outpaces the S&P 500 benchmark index.
The Bottom Line
U.S. shoppers are ready to spend during this year’s Black Friday sales, but the greatest beneficiaries may be technology companies. By considering these three mutual funds, investors can position themselves to benefit from these trends, and could experience a boost, if Black Friday sales exceed expectations during the 2015 holiday season.
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