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Is The Social Media ETF Decoupling from Facebook?

Is Facebook really a flop, and who is doing better?

08/20/2012

The woes of the oft-criticized Global X Social Media Index ETF (NASDAQ: SOCL) are well-known and easy to explain. As the first and (still the only) ETF devoted exclusively to the social media space, SOCL has broken new ground. Should the sector eventually capture investors’ attention in a positive way, SOCL will have a compelling first mover advantage over any rival funds that may pop up.

However, in recent months, SOCL has faced a series of problems and plenty of them have been related to Facebook’s (NASDAQ: FB) flop as a public company. There was the theory that the Facebook IPO would validate SOCL as a worthy ETF.

Obviously, Facebook’s price action has been less than supportive in terms of driving SOCL higher. Then there have been the subsequent plunges in shares of Groupon (NASDAQ: GRPN) and Zynga (NASDAQ: ZNGA).

In a perverse way, SOCL’s performance since August 1 highlights the advantages of the market cap weighting methodology used by so many ETFs. The base definition is that as a stock’s market value increases, its weight within a cap-weighted also increases. As the stock’s market value declines, its weight within cap-weighted ETFs also drops.

That is exactly what has happened with Facebook and SOCL. When the stock was initially added to the ETF just a few days after the May IPO, it accounted for 8.8 percent of SOCL’s weight. That was good enough to be SOCL’s third-largest holding. On July 25, Facebook was 8.2 percent of SOCL’s overall weight.

Oddly enough, Facebook’s almost 12 percent plunge since the start of August has proven helpful for SOCL. The fund is up two percent since August 1. As of the close of markets on August, Facebook’s weight in SOCL had fallen to 5.7 percent and the stock is now the ETF’s fifth-largest holding.

Adding to the unusual nature of SOCL’s decent run this month is the fact that Groupon (NASDAQ: GRPN) has slipped 31.1 percent. Zynga is actually in the green in August, but SOCL has outpaced that name as well.

The Zynga case might be another example of a stock’s decline helping SOCL. Back on July 25, the stock represented 3.3 percent of the ETF’s weight. As of August 16, SOCL devoted just 1.98 percent of its weight to the maker of online games. Groupon has seen its weight in SOCL pared to less than 1.4 percent.

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