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Before the Fed Rate Hike, Buy These Stocks and ETFs

Eric Dutram

When the Fed meets for the final time in 2015, many investors are expecting them to do something that hasn't been done in nearly a decade, raise rates.

The last such rate hike came back in 2006 and brought us up to 5.25%, but it didn't last long as rates soon cratered before finding bottom near zero in December of 2008 and staying there ever since. But now with an economy on more solid footing and inflation slowly starting to creep back towards a two percent target rate, it may be time to hike rates.

After all, the whole idea of zero percent rates was predicated on a crisis situation. It is hard to say that we are still in a 'crisis' now, suggesting it is well past the time to consider a rate hike for the economy.

Some investors still remain woefully underprepared for this reality, believing that a rate hike simply will not happen. But with a parade of Fed officials coming out lately to say otherwise, not to mention a CME Fed Watch reading approaching 80% chance for a hike, it is looking more and more likely that a hike is all but inevitable at this point.

There is still plenty of time to prepare though.

A closer look at financial stocks and also bond instruments which will not be hit by rising rates seems like a good plan for now. As such, I have taken a look at a few such good options below, any of which could make for solid choices ahead of a rate hike, no matter when the inevitable does strike:

CBOE Holdings (CBOE)

The Chicago Board Options Exchange may not be the first name you think of in a rising rate scenario, but it could actually be one of the better positioned-- and more overlooked-- choices in the space. That is because the company's primary products, options on the S&P 500 and volatility-linked options, stand to see more trading as the Fed adjusts rates (with volatility coming especially into focus).

Analysts have also begun to adjust their opinion of CBOE stock as we have seen broad analyst estimate increases in the past quarter. The full year consensus estimate has increased from $2.21/share to $2.41/share in the past ninety days while we have also seen a positive trend for the next year time frame too (see all the financial ETFs here).

CBOE is also riding an earnings beat streak of three straight quarters and in each of these reports the company has beaten estimates by at least 4%. So not only has CBOE been an impressive pick as of late, but it could be a stealth choice for investors to play a Fed rate hike, and especially considering this is currently a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) security right now.

E-Trade Financial (ETFC)

When the Fed raises rates, it is great news for investment brokers. Companies in this space make money off of the float, or invested capital that hasn't been allocated to securities yet. And when rates increase, the return companies like E-Trade can generate is even greater (see Guide to the 7 Most Popular Financial ETFs).

Though there are many names in the investment broker space, ETFC stands out as a great choice right now. The company is expected to see double digit EPS growth this year while it currently has an earnings ESP of 6.9%.

Best of all, analysts have begun to raise their estimates for the stock while all the recent estimates for the current year EPS have gone higher in the past two months. This has been enough to move ETFC to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) making it a great pick ahead of a possible rate hike.

WisdomTree Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Negative Duration Fund (AGND)

A lot of investors like the safety of bonds and I can see how this can make up a decent size position of many portfolios. However, rising rates are generally bad news for bonds as bond prices have an inverse relationship with rates (see Negative Duration Bond ETFs: Right Time to Bet?).

Fortunately, WisdomTree's ETFs in the bond space look to mitigate these worries with a lineup of negative duration products. These funds move higher when yields do and thus can be great bond choices for investors in this type of environment.

Costs aren't too bad here either at just 28 basis points a year, while yields come in at about 2%. And with an effective duration of roughly -4.5 years, this should benefit from rising rates but still won't be too volatile either.

Ex-Rate Sensitive Low Volatility Portfolio (XRLV)

If equities are more of your game but you are still concerned about volatility, than XRLV is definitely worth a closer look. This fund looks at 100 S&P 500 components that exhibit both low volatility, and low interest rate risk (see 5 ETF Strategies to Prepare for Higher Rates).

This approach looks to exclude those that tend to perform the worst in rising rate environments, giving a tilt towards financials (28%), industrials (21.8%), and consumer staples (15%). There is definitely a large cap focus here, but mid caps still make up nearly one-third of the portfolio too.

XRLV will definitely be a lower risk choice to play the rising rate trend while it is a pretty cheap selection too at just 25 basis points a year in fees. And while volume isn't great here, the product does have a pretty tight bid ask spread thanks to its focus on highly liquid securities trading in the U.S. market.

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CBOE HOLDINGS (CBOE): Free Stock Analysis Report
E TRADE FINL CP (ETFC): Free Stock Analysis Report
PWRSH-SP5 XRATE (XRLV): ETF Research Reports
WISDMTR-B USABN (AGND): ETF Research Reports
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