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Pharma ETFs In Focus As Washington Debates Prescription Drug Pricing

With all of the talk from Capitol Hill in regards to prescription pill prices and proposed healthcare reform, today we hone in on the Pharmaceutical segment within the greater Healthcare industry sector in ETF land.

The asset leader here is a fund from PowerShares known as PJP (Dynamic Pharmaceuticals Portfolio, Expense Ratio 0.58%), which has $840 million in assets under management currently. The fund holds twenty-two individual equities, and among the top holdings are well-known “Big Pharma” names, as follows: 1) LLY (5.75%), 2) AMGN (5.49%), 3) AGN (5.32%), 4) PFE (5.13%), and 5) MRK (5.11%).

In fact, 65% of the portfolio is invested across Large Cap names, with the remaining 19% devoted to Small-Caps, 12% to Micro-Caps, and 4% to Mid-Cap stocks.

PJP has seen mild outflows year-to-date of about $40 million, and the fund traded at its highest level since last October on Monday of this week before giving up some ground in the past couple sessions. The fund has had some trouble with its 200 day MA in fact, a level that it is challenging once again this morning in early trading after failing there earlier this week.

Other notables in the Pharmaceuticals segment in terms of fund size include the $685 million IHE (iShares U.S. Pharmaceuticals, Expense Ratio 0.43%), the $466 million XPH (SPDR S&P Pharmaceuticals, Expense Ratio 0.35%), and the $366 million PPH (VanEck Vectors Pharmaceutical, Expense Ratio 0.35%).

Direxion also offers two daily leveraged trading vehicles in this segment that still remain small in asset sizes after their September 2015 launches, in PILS (Direxion Daily Pharmaceutical & Medical Bear 2X, Expense Ratio 0.81%) and PILL (Direxion Daily Pharmaceutical & Medical Bull 2X, Expense Ratio 0.81%), which still have little more than seed capital invested presently.

VanEck also lists GNRX (VanEck Vectors Generic Drugs, Expense Ratio 0.55%, $6.8 million in AUM), which we have mentioned in this piece before on a solo basis, because it is the only specialty ETF that zeroes in on the “Generic Drugs” segment within the greater Pharmaceuticals space.


The PowerShares Dynamic Pharmaceuticals ETF (NYSE:PJP) was trading at $60.82 per share on Thursday morning, up $0.36 (+0.60%). Year-to-date, PJP has gained 8.55%, versus a 6.74% rise in the benchmark S&P 500 index during the same period.

PJP currently has an ETF Daily News SMART Grade of B (Buy), and is ranked #25 of 36 ETFs in the Health & Biotech ETFs category.

About the Author: Paul Weisbruch

paul-weisbruchPaul Weisbruch is the VP of ETF/Options Sales and Trading at Street One Financial. Prior to joining the team at Street One, Paul served as the Director of RIA and Institutional ETF Sales at RevenueShares ETFs from December 2007 until November of 2009. Before RevenueShares, Paul was employed by Susquehanna International Group from 2000 until 2007 serving in roles including OTC/NYSE Institutional Block Trading, Nasdaq/OTC Market Making, ETF/Derivatives Intelligence and Strategy, Algorithmic Trading, as well as acting as the PHLX Floor Specialist in the ETFs, SPY and DIA.Paul has been actively involved in the ETF space from both a product and trading standpoint since 2000. Additionally, Paul has well forged relationships with national RIAs, institutional pension fund managers and consultants, mutual fund and hedge fund managers, and also the ETF media. Co-authoring the “S1F ETF Daily” since 2009, the daily piece has become a must for many portfolio managers in the ETF space, with segments regularly appearing in the likes of Barron’s, WSJ, and for instance.

He holds his Series 4 (Registered Options Principal), 6, 7, 55 (Equity Trader), 63, and 65 licenses. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh (B.S. – Economics), graduating magna cum laude, and has an MBA from Villanova University.

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