Health care ETFs rise as Trump fails to repeal Obamacare

Apr 6th, 2017 | By | Category: Equities

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US-focused health care ETFs are on the rise, having shaken off Donald Trump’s failed Obamacare replacement bill.

Health care ETFs rise as Trump fails to repeal Obamacare

The Source Health Care S&P US Sector UCITS ETF (LON: XLVS) is up more than 8% year-to-date.

Health care stocks on average fell in 2016 while US stock markets made record highs, as analysts noted heightened uncertainty due to the incoming President’s plans to reform the sector. Health care ETFs gained ground after the election however, as it was expected that Trump was unlikely to scrutinise big pharma costs, despite his pledges. So far in 2017 the sector has climbed higher as investors continue to place capital into these companies.

The Source Health Care S&P US Sector UCITS ETF (LON: XLVS) is up more than 8% year to date in USD terms – it is up the same amount over 12 months.

Such ETFs may offer investors a chance to buy into stocks with relatively low valuations compared to the broader market.

“Health care stocks are playing catch-up after about six quarters of underperformance, with many stocks still in the bargain bin, particularly beaten-up biotechs,” BlackRock’s chief equity strategist Kate Moore wrote in a recent blog post.

Despite President Trump’s proposed American Health Care Act threatening to dramatically increase the number of uninsured Americans and dismantle the individual insurance market, health care ETFs maintained their upward trajectory in 2017, perhaps doubting the bill would push its way through Congress. Indeed, on 24 March, Republicans pulled the bill, fearing they would not get enough votes for it to pass.

The failure may have put a dent in Trump’s economic agenda and raised doubts about his abilities to push bills through Congress. While this is a potential worry for US stocks in general, having soared in recent months in anticipation of regulatory and tax reform, health care companies largely shrugged off these concerns.

The long-term outlook for the health care sector remains intact. The defensive sector boasts stable revenues, strong balance sheets and healthy dividend yields and is a safe haven during times of volatility.

Asides from XLVS, which costs 0.30% and has $255 million in assets, there are two other similar options listed in Europe.

The SPDR S&P US Health Care Select Sector UCITS ETF (LON: SXLV) has only $80m in assets but cuts XLVS’ fees in half to 0.15%. For the same price, iShares has the $117m S&P 500 Health Care Sector UCITS ETF (LON: IUHC), which is up 8.4% since 1 January.

With the Republicans’ health care plans blown out of the water, it could take months, if not years, for a full replacement plan to pass Congress and be implemented. Policy concerns could still affect the market in future, however.

For more diversified exposure, investors may wish to choose a global health care fund. With rising obesity, ageing populations and increasing numbers of people buying health care in emerging markets, this sector could be a sure bet for years to come.

The $91m SPDR MSCI World Health Care UCITS ETF (LON: WHEA) costs 0.30% and is up more than 8% year to date. It tracks 131 companies, but the US still makes up over 68% of the exposure, followed by 9.1% in Switzerland and 5.7% in the UK.

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