Top Investment Trends For Futurists (FFD, AFK, EZA, PHO, PIO, PXN, TINY, LIT, BP, PBW, PZD, PBD, REMX, NLR, MOO, GLD, BBH, IBB, FPX, IPOSX)

Douglas A. McIntyre

Are You Ready For The International Water Wars?

Americans, Canadians, and many Europeans take potable water for granted.  However, Montezuma’s Revenge and many water-borne illnesses are rather common around the globe.  Building water filtration systems and desalination plants is costly. Nations are already setting limits on water resources.  Don’t ever discount the future of water.  Wars could be fought over potable water sources.  If you refer to that Nat-Geo World at Night Map, you can guess where much of the water resources are needed.

Many speculators have invested in the water industry for years.  It is no wonder that GE, 3M, and many other conglomerates have invested in the sector.  PowerShares Global Water (NYSE: PIO) and PowerShares Water Resources (NYSE: PHO) are two ETFs that compete in the world of water investing.

The PowerShares Water Resources (NYSE: PHO) seeks to track the Palisades Water index and it tends to have more of a U.S. focus.  Of course, many of these companies were hurt because they built new infrastructure ahead of housing developments that were scraped when the bubble burst.  PowerShares Water U.S. assets are close to $1 billion. It trades well over 200,000 shares per day, and its 52-week range is $14.70 to $18.68. (outside flash crash listed low of $6.99) to $18.68.

The PowerShares Global Water (NYSE: PIO) seeks to track the Palisades Global Water index, and it invests in U.S. companies and large international companies.  This is a smaller fund than the domestic water fund (PHO) from PowerShares.  Still,  it has more than $300 million in assets and trades close to 60,000 shares per day, and it has a 52-week range of $15.60 to $19.46.

J.P. Morgan Asset Management and Water Asset Management acquired Southwest Water, and that Water Asset Management is a private investment vehicle.  These are four small water mutual funds: Kinetics Water Infrastructure Advantaged Fund (KWIAX), PFW Water Fund (PFWAX), Allianz RCM Global Water Fund (AWTAX), and Calvert Global Water Fund (CFWAX).

NANO-NANO… Take Me To Your InnerSpace

The word nanotechnology, or nanotech for short, is another futurist technology. Many aspects of nanotechnology are already in use today in chemicals and other products.  This may also be one of the most controversial issues in the world of technology.  Think about atomic and molecular scale systems comprised of compounds between 1 to 100 nanometers, or one billionth of a meter.  There have been fortunes made by investors and there have been many fortunes lost.

Imagine machines so small that they could operate and move freely in your blood.  Imagine coatings that are comprised of molecules and materials small enough that they get a perfectly flat surface.  Unfortunately, you also have to consider toxicity, regulation, and the potential for a destructive use for such small products.  There is one ETF in the PowerShares Lux Nanotech (NYSE: PXN).

The PowerShares Lux Nanotech (NYSE: PXN) from Invesco seeks to track the the Lux Nanotech index.  It is comprised of some well-known companies and many companies have nanotech as a portion of their business.  The ETF has been around since the end of 2005 and has never recaptured its former highs.  It is also small at about $6 million in assets and trades under 25,000 shares a day on average.  Its 52-week range is $7.74 to $10.85.  Some of the companies in the fund include A123 Systems, Elan, 3M, GE, and Headwaters; but this ETF has some very risky and very volatile holdings as well.

Harris & Harris Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: TINY) is a nanotech venture capital fund whose website address tells what it is all about.  Its market capitalization is roughly $137 million, it trades close to 100,000 shares per day, and its 52-week range is $3.70 to $5.50.  While this is not a fund, it is close enough as the VC-company’s portfolio has more than 30 investment company holdings.  The company claimed a net asset value of $4.51 per share as of September 30, 2010, but founder Charles Harris also passed away at the end of September 2010.

Advanced Batteries… High on Lithium

All of those rechargeable batteries, batteries in consumer electronics and electric cars need lithium, which makes it a trend for futurists to consider.  There are two key risks here for this precious commodity: it could eventually run out or become uneconomical.  Moreover, China and Russia are major suppliers, which gives the sector an element of political instability.

Is it possible a better technology could come along?  Of course.  Still, there are many opportunities in the industry and it is probably no accident that behemoths such as General Electric have already invested in advanced batteries and have vowed to continue to do so. Lithium demand has nearly doubled in the past decade from above 15,000 metric tons in 2002 and is expected to rise to 55,000 metric tons by 2020 , according to the TRU Group.

Global X Lithium ETF (NYSE: LIT) is a very new ETF that launched in the summer and its holdings are solely in companies active in exploring and mining of lithium and producing lithium batteries.  So far it has been a big success.  The fund seeks to track the Solactive Global Lithium Index. Some key holdings are Sociedad Quimica Y Minera De Chile (above 22% of the fund), FMC Corp., Rockwood Holdings, Sanyo Electric, Ener1 and A123 Systems.  Assets under management are $91.5 million, it trades over 100,000 shares on an average day, in a range of $15.63 to $21.30.