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Sector Trends Reveal ETF Investors Are Turning Defensive


Signaling a shift from growth-oriented bets to safer plays for troubled times, defensive sector exchange traded funds led the market over the past month.

“It may be troubling, but it’s indicative of what’s happening in the market,” Vadim Zlotnikov, chief market strategist at AllianceBernstein, said on Yahoo! Breakout. “People want yield. They want income. They want certainty.”

Zlotnikov points out that investors are fine with just sitting in income while they wait for growth to kick in.

For instance, the iShares Dow Jones Telecom ETF (IYZ) and Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP) were the top performing sector funds over the past month, rising 5.9% and 5.3%, respectively, compared to the S&P 500′s 3.8% gain.

However, investors should be aware that playing defensive is starting to become pricey. The recent struggles of low beta, defensive sectors like staples, telecom and utilities says investors might be leaving too much on the table and paying too far up to play defense. [Playing Defense Isn’t Cheap]

Meanwhile, the Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR (XLY) , Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE) and Technology Select Sector SPDR (XLK) rounded out the bottom of the S&P 500 index.

Jim Cramer, the Mad Money host, though, is concerned that the shift into defensive stocks could signal a slowdown down the road, Lee Brodie reports for CNBC.

“There’s a grudging understanding that confidence in our country’s been shot by the brouhaha in Washington,” Cramer said. “Lots of investors believe history is about to repeat itself early next year.”

For more information on sector funds, visit our sector ETFs category.

Max Chen contributed to this article.