ETF Edge

'Golden era of robotics adoption' kicks off in 2022, strategist says

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The robotics industry could reach a "key inflection point" in 2022, said Global X's Jay Jacobs.

Low interest rates, rising labor costs and disrupted supply chains are setting up for "a huge surge in spending on robotics and artificial intelligence," the firm's senior vice president and head of research and strategy told CNBC's "ETF Edge" on Monday.

"We think we're going to be in the golden era of robotics adoption in the United States and beyond," Jacobs said. "We're actually forecasting growth in industrial robots from 16 billion to 37 billion over the next 10 years with 2022 being that key inflection point."

Robotics investments' last big year was 2017, but investors got distracted by other themes such as electric vehicles, Jacobs said. Global X's Robotics & Artificial Intelligence ETF (BOTZ) is up 140% since its 2016 launch, but has declined more than 9% in the past month.

"It's important to try to anticipate the changes that are happening before the rest of the market has picked up on it," Jacobs said. "I think it behooves many investors to be early on [robotics] as we see it accelerate in the coming year."

Global X is no stranger to picking themes. The firm's U.S. Infrastructure Development ETF (PAVE), Lithium & Battery Tech ETF (LIT), Uranium ETF (URA) and Cybersecurity ETF (BUG) have attracted some of the highest inflows in the thematic tech space this year.

And while ETFs based on indexes including the S&P 500, Nasdaq 100 and Russell 2000 have taken in the lion's share of this year's more than $800 trillion in inflows, thematic ETFs still have their heyday ahead of them, Jacobs said.

"We've seen about a third of thematic ETFs on the market launch in just the last year and a half. If you look at the crypto space, these are brand-new products with only a couple months of history," he said.

ESG funds currently account for just more than $31 billion of 2021's ETF inflows. Thematic tech ETFs account for nearly $7 billion and recently launched bitcoin futures ETFs account for just shy of $2 billion.

"While the flows are still low in the relative sense compared to the S&P 500s, the Nasdaq 100s, you've actually seen very quick uptake of these funds," Jacobs said. "I think as we look forward we're going to increasingly see crypto and themes being a key piece of people's portfolios, maybe anywhere from 10%-20% of growth-oriented portfolios going forward."

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