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Defensive Posturing Seen Amid Big Buying of Staples ETF


The consumer staples sector has not provided investors with much to write home about this year and for the month ending Aug. 8, the sector was giving investors plenty of reasons to cringe.

Over that period, the Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP) , the largest staples ETF, tumbled 3.1%, betraying investors that were looking for refuge amid an uptick in broader market volatility.

XLP and rival staples ETFs look like they’re on the mend. Sine July 31, the day before Dow component Procter & Gamble (PG) reported earnings, XLP is higher by nearly 2.5% and there has been heavy institutional buying of the ETF in recent days. [P&G Props up Staples ETFs]

For the week ending Aug. 8, XLP saw inflows of nearly $404 million, likely the handiwork of institutional buyers such as ETF strategists. That effort continued Monday when XLP gained 0.8% on volume that was more than triple the daily average.

After stumbling in July, several of XLP’s marquee constituents are rebounding in earnest this month. Only two of the ETF’s top-10 holdings – Walgreen (WAG) and Mondelez (MDLZ) – have traded lower this month.

Buying of staples ETFs could be a sign some investors betting on a rebound in consumer stocks, both of non-cyclical and cyclical varieties. Since the start of the third quarter, only two ETFs have commanded more new assets than the $1.68 billion added by the Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR (XLY) .

It is not a coincidence that staples ETFs are on the move to the upside this month. Since 1999, the first full year in which the nine SPDRs traded, XLP   is usually the best SPDR in August, posting an average gain in the eighth month of the year of less than 1%, according to CXO Advisory.

If precedent is an accurate guide, XLP does not need to be sold on Aug. 31 or Sept. 1 because the ETF is usually the second-best of the nine SPDRs in September. [August's Top Sector ETF Ideas]

Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR