As is often par for the course in strong years for stocks, the consumer staples sector has been a decent though not spectacular performer. For example, the Vanguard Consumer Staples ETF (VDC) is trailing the S&P 500 by about 400 basis points.
Even with the somewhat lethargic performance, consumer staples is still the second-most expensive sector in the S&P 500 behind consumer discretionary and staples not only trade at a premium to the broader market, but to their five- and 10-year averages as well. [Financials: The Rodney Dangerfield Sector]
Investors still like the comfort of low-beta, dividend-paying staples names, a fact highlighted by VDC’s almost $240 million in 2013 inflows. With 2014 fast approaching, a global approach to the staples sector could be worth considering. [Defensive Sectors Ruled in October]
That can be accomplished with the $648.9 million iShares Global Consumer Staples ETF (KXI) . KXI is home to 100 stocks and 51.4% of the ETF’s geographic weight is allocated, so investment in this fund does not mean forsaking popular U.S. staples plays such as Procter & Gamble (PG) and Coca-Cola (KO).
In addition to the comforts of U.S. exposure, 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 22% of its weight. Talking about Swiss staples often means a conversation about Nestle (PK:NSRGY), the world’s largest food company.
“Nestle possesses a high degree of pricing power, as volume has held up despite the fact that the firm has raised prices across its product portfolio over many years. We think investors would be wise to consider an investment in Nestle, which trades at a modest discount to our fair value estimate, particularly in light of the broad category and geographic exposure the packaged food giant offers,” according to Morningstar.
Morningstar also has four-star ratings on U.K. retailer Tesco and Dutch staples giant Unilever (UN). “With its robust cash flow (free cash flow amounted to 9.5% of sales in fiscal 2012), we think Unilever (which is attractively valued) to continue investing behind its brands, pursuing acquisition opportunities as they arise, and returning excess capital to shareholders,” said Morningstar.
Nestle, Unilever and Tesco combine for 11.4% of KXI’s weight. Morningstar has fair value estimates of $45 on Coca-Cola and $93 on Philip Morris, implying decent upside from current levels for both stocks. Those are KXI’s third and fourth-largest holdings, respectively, combining for 9.4% of the ETF’s weight.
iShares Global Consumer Staples ETF
ETF Trends editorial team contributed to this post. Tom Lydon’s clients own shares of Coke and Procter & Gamble.
The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.