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2 Steady Sector ETFs Amid August's Market Crash

Sanghamitra Saha

With the U.S. market wavering on political uncertainty, investors must closely be eyeing sectors to invest in. First, tensions between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un heated up thanks to nuclear activity by the latter.

Second, the disbanding of President Trump’s Manufacturing Council sparked off further political anxiety in America. And finally, U.S. stocks are guilty of overvaluation concerns (read: What Does High CAPE Ratio Mean for ETF Investing?).

If these were not enough, the Fed is divided on inflation. While some officials believe that the lack of inflationary pressure is temporary, others believe that inflation may be below the target level for a period which exceeds current expectations and fall even further. This has resulted in uncertainty regarding the future rate hike course.

Meanwhile, housing starts dropped in July, thanks to a falloff in apartment construction. IMF has downgraded the U.S. growth forecast for 2017 and 2018 citing lower-than-expected expansion in the fiscal policy given the ongoing political drama (read: Low Volatility ETFs Surge Amid Trump and Fed Worries).

As a result, the broader market has been in the red lately. The S&P 500-based ETF SPY, Dow Jones Industrial Average-based ETF DIA and Nasdaq 100-based ETF QQQ were off about 1.6%, 1% and 1.5%, respectively, in the last 10 days (as of August 17, 2017). Almost all the sectors in the S&P 500 suffered during this time frame except the defensive ones.

Below we highlight those two winning sectors and the reason for their outperformance.

Utilities

Utilities has put up a strong show so far in August. The sector is considered safe and comes across as one of the best equity picks when the market is tumultuous. The rise in population leads to increased demand for essential utility supplies.

Plus, the sector normally offers strong dividend yields and performs better in a low-rate environment as it requires huge debt for its operations (read: Utility ETFs Always a Safe Option for the Investors).

Higher safe haven demand dragged down U.S. Treasury yields lately. As of August 17, 2017, the yield on benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasuries was 2.19%, down 10 bps from the high point of the month touched on August 8, 2017. This opened up room for higher-yielding utility ETFs (read: 3 Bond ETFs to Buy Now).

Several utility ETFs hit 52-week highs lately. So, investors seeking momentum plays and intending to cash in on low rates may play utility ETFs like Utilities Select Sector SPDR Fund XLU, Fidelity Utilities MSCI ETF FUTY, Dynamic Utilities Powershares PUI and Vanguard Utilities ETF VPU.

Consumer Staples

The companies under the consumer staples sector sell relatively low-margin products that consumers need for everyday use. So, the sector is non-cyclical in nature and resistant to economic conditions. As a result, the consumer staples sector is outperforming the broader market index this month.

One way to tap the positive momentum in the sector is through basket form. In this context, Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR Fund XLP, S&P 500 Cons Staples EW Guggenheim RHS, Vanguard Consumer Staples ETF VDC and First Trust Consumer Staples AlphaDEX Fund FXG are good investment opportunities.

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