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What Is the QQQ ETF?

November 30, 2020 · 5 minute read

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What Is the QQQ ETF?

The Invesco QQQ ETF, formerly known as the PowerShares ETF, is an exchange-traded fund that tracks the Nasdaq 100 index.

The QQQ is widely considered to be one of the safer ETFs on the market and has received positive performance rankings from analysts. The fund enjoys high liquidity, being the second-most-traded ETF in the United States as of mid-2020.

The QQQ only holds companies that are included in the Nasdaq 100 and have been listed on the Nasdaq exchange for a minimum of two years. As of August 2020, the ETF contained 104 holdings.

The QQQ exists as a unit investment trust. A UIT is an investment company offering a fixed portfolio through a single security that can be bought and sold by investors as individual shares.

An investment company of this type doesn’t actively trade stocks, meaning shares of its investments aren’t bought or sold unless there’s an extraordinary event like a bankruptcy or corporate merger.

So investors can know that when they own shares in a holding offered by this type of investment company, the underlying assets will mostly stay the same. Not all funds are like this; in fact, some ETFs are actively traded and sometimes have portfolio managers altering the underlying assets daily.

In many ways, the QQQ might be an attractive option for inclusion in a long-term investment portfolio for some investors. The ETF provides cost-efficient exposure to many large companies with high levels of innovation. Investors don’t have to be burdened with picking specific stocks or being limited to a technology-only fund (although the QQQ is heavily weighted toward tech, but it also invests in other sectors).

What is the QQQ? To answer that question, first we must look at the Nasdaq 100.

What Is the Nasdaq 100?

The Nasdaq exchange is the second-largest stock exchange in the world, based on market cap.

In addition to hosting the stocks of some of the world’s largest companies, the exchange has had several notable accomplishments over the years. It was the first to offer electronic trading, the first to keep records in cloud storage, and the first to launch a website.

The Nasdaq 100 consists of the 100 largest companies (by market capitalization) listed on the Nasdaq exchange, except for financial companies.

Part of what makes the Nasdaq 100 index unique is that it uses something called a modified capitalization methodology. The goal of this method is to stop the index from becoming too heavily influenced by any of its super large companies.

That way, if a tech giant like Apple, for example, were to see a big selloff one day, the Nasdaq 100 shouldn’t see as steep a decline, assuming the other 99 companies aren’t also going down.

Stocks in the Nasdaq can be more volatile and riskier than average. But the returns can also be above average.

As of July 2020, the Nasdaq 100 index had achieved a 426% return on investment over a 10-year period. (Note: This refers to the cumulative return of all 100 companies in the index over that amount of time. The index itself has no single way for investors to purchase it, which is why things like the QQQ exist.)

Each quarter, Nasdaq looks at the composition of the index and adjusts weightings as needed to try to achieve this goal of a more equitable performance.

According to the Nasdaq website, there are over 490 investment products tied to the Nasdaq 100. The Invesco QQQ ETF is included.

What Is in the QQQ ETF?

The Invesco QQQ ETF is one of the many ways for investors to gain exposure to the Nasdaq 100.

Most of the QQQ involves large international and United States-based companies in sectors like telecommunications, health care, industrial matters, and technology.

Tech giants like Tesla, Intel, Apple, and Google make up a large portion of the ETF, as the Nasdaq tends to include many tech and growth-oriented stocks.

In fact, as of October 2020, stocks in the technology sector made up almost half of the QQQ ETF, at 48.2%. Other notable sectors included communications services at 19.1%, consumer discretionary at 18.9%, health care at 6.7%, and consumer staples at 4.7%.

The QQQ is rebalanced each quarter (every three months), meaning its managers try to balance the investments in a way that will not give too much influence to any one stock. The ETF is also reconstituted annually, meaning its managers consider which securities to buy, sell, or hold throughout the coming year.

Now that we’ve looked at what is in the QQQ ETF, let’s look at some pros and cons of investing in it.

Pros and Cons of the QQQ ETF

The QQQ has its benefits and drawbacks like any other investment choice.

ETFs come with something called an expense ratio, which represents the amount of fees paid to the company that manages the fund. The fees cover the expenses of operating and maintaining the fund.

Expense ratios are expressed as percentages that will be taken from the fund’s assets before paying investors. If a fund has an expense ratio of 0.5% and the fund sees a return of 4.5% on the year, investors will see a return of 4% after expenses.

Expense ratios are important to consider for any ETF because they can have a big influence on returns, especially for long-term investors.

Pros

One of the pros of the QQQ is that it comes with a very low expense ratio, coming in at just 0.2%, or 20 cents for every $100 invested. This low cost of holding the fund only amplifies its returns over time.

Outsized returns are another pro for this ETF. Though past performance doesn’t always indicate future results, the QQQ has provided higher returns than the S&P 500 for much of recent history. Ten of the last 12 years have seen the QQQ outperform the S&P 500.

Cons

One of the negatives of the QQQ is a relative lack of diversification. While the fund may be more diversified than an ETF that invests exclusively in technology, it’s still less diversified than many similar securities.

The Nasdaq 100 has stocks from eight sectors, but as we saw earlier, the tech sector alone makes up more than 60% of the entire index.

Due in part to this lack of diversification and focus on tech and communications, the QQQ can see above-average volatility. This can make it riskier in the short term, although the fund is still seen as a relatively safe investment.

While the QQQ could see wild swings from time to time, those swings will likely be much less severe than holding the individual stocks in the fund.

How to Invest in the QQQ ETF

Let’s review all this briefly.

The Nasdaq is one of the largest stock exchanges in the world.

The Nasdaq 100 is an index that tracks the top 100 largest stocks in the Nasdaq.

The QQQ ETF is a popular fund that tracks the Nasdaq 100.

After understanding some of the basics about what is in the QQQ ETF, let’s assume an investor wants to gain exposure.

What’s the best way to invest in the QQQ?

Investors will have to answer this question for themselves, but here are a few potential ways to go about it.

•  Search for the ticker “QQQ” and buy shares of the ETF directly in a brokerage account. When wanting to invest large sums, consider dollar-cost averaging.
•  Look into leveraged ETFs that track indexes on a 2:1 or 3:1 basis. These are riskier. Leveraged funds might be more for short-term traders. Examples are QLD or TQQQ.

The Takeaway

The Invesco QQQ ETF is a popular exchange-traded fund that tracks the Nasdaq 100 index. Like any investment choice, the QQQ has pros and cons. One of the easiest ways to invest in an ETF like the QQQ might be to buy shares on an exchange like SoFi’s.

SoFi offers all the tools that both beginning and experienced investors need to accomplish their monetary goals. SoFi Invest® offers educational content as well as access to financial planners. The Active Investing platform lets investors choose from an array of stocks, ETFs or fractional shares. For a limited time, opening an account gives you the opportunity to win up to $1,000 in the stock of your choice. All you have to do is sign up, play the claw game, and find out how much you won.

Download the SoFi Invest mobile app today.


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