I don't necessarily like or dislike ETFs. To me they're just another tool that other investors and I rely on to potentially achieve our investment objectives. So let me cut right to the chase and reveal the reasons I use them.
—To invest in areas where I don't feel I have the expertise or confidence to choose individual securities.
—So I can use different kinds of limit orders to set the conditions in which I buy or sell them. I'm talking about below-the-market buy-limit orders, stop orders, trailing orders and the like.
—To use my experience and creativity to mix and match different ETFs to be a globe-trotting bargain hunter.
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To be sure, on that last one, I am not saying this is as simple as looking at the worst-performing ETFs and to just investing in those—remember, that's just the first step. There are reasons behind the poor performance. You know it isn't easy to separate value plays from value traps. Still, opportunities arise when things go awry.
Take, for example, Market Vectors Egypt Index ETF, which retreated about 52 percent due to the upheaval from the Arab Spring in 2011 and then advanced about 45 percent in 2012. Another example is iShares MSCI Italy Capped ETF, which has a chart for all of 2012 that looks like a V with the bottom in June during the height of the European debt crisis. The back half of that V represents a near 45 percent gain in about 6 months' time.