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Sinful Staples ETF at All-Time Highs


Consumer staples stocks and the relevant exchange traded funds are believed to be ideal shelter from the storm plays during times of broader market tumult.

That has been the case over the past month. Sort of. The S&P 500 is up half a percent over that time, but the Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP) and the Vanguard Consumer Staples ETF (VDC) are higher by 0.9% and 0.7%, respectively. [Winning Sector Ideas for May]

A global approach to the consumer staples sector with a dash of sin stocks has recently proven more rewarding. Just eight ETFs hit new all-time highs last Friday and the $627.8 million iShares Global Consumer Staples ETF (KXI) was one of those funds.

KXI is up 2.6% over the past month, nearly quadrupled the gains offered by the U.S.-focused VDC. In addition to the comforts of U.S. exposure of 50.7%, KXI provides investors with some leverage to the economic recovery in Europe. The fund does that it in mostly conservative fashion as the U.K. and Switzerland combine for over 22% of its weight. Talking about Swiss staples often means a conversation about Nestle (NSRGY), the world’s largest food company. [Stock up on Global Staples With This ETF]

Nestle’s upside is benefiting other ETFs beyond KXI. One of the other ETFs to hit a new all-time high last Friday was the iShares MSCI Switzerland Capped ETF (EWL) where Nestle is the largest holding at almost 18%.

Although KXI is not a pure “sin stock” ETF it is benefiting from the presence of companies with some sinful in its 100-stock lineup. Yes, Nestle is the world’s largest food company with a substantial lineup of products ranging from pet food to water. It is also one of the world’s largest chocolate candy purveyors and is the company behind well-known brands such as Butterfinger and Kit-Kat, just to name two.

KXI’s sinful exposure does not end there. Philip Morris (PM), British American Tobacco, Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) and spirits giant Diageo (DEO) are all top-10 holdings in KXI, combining for nearly 13% of the ETF’s weight.

As is seen with Nestle’s importance to not only KXI, but EWL, the Switzerland ETF, Anheuser-Busch InBev has played a similar role with the iShares MSCI Belgium Capped ETF (EWK) . The beer giant is 23% of the Belgium ETF’s weight, helping EWK to an 8.1% year-to-date gain. [Belgium ETF Shines]

If there is a knock on KXI it is valuation and that is saying something considering that the staples sector is often richly valued relative to the broader market. The ETF sports a P/E ratio of almost 21.3 and a price-to-book ratio of 5.37 compared to 18.3 and 3.9 on XLP, the largest staples ETF.

iShares Global Consumer Staples ETF