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Get Stuck on Staples With This ETF


Following a rough January, consumer staples stocks and exchange traded funds are rebounding. Fueled by the deep pullback in high beta momentum groups such as biotechnology and Internet, investors are reevaluating the consumer staples sector.

It is just one day, but on Monday when the Down Jones Industrial Average plunged, two of the index’s six stocks that closed higher were Coca-Cola (KO) and Procter & Gamble (PG). Another staples name, Wal-Mart (WMT), was flat on the day. Those three stocks combine for nearly 30% of the Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP) , the largest staples ETF.

Speaking of XLP, the ETF is up 8.3% since the start of February, a performance that is even better than the Utilities Select Sector SPDR (XLU) over the same time. [Utilities Boosting These ETFs as Well]

But the leader among staples ETFs since the beginning of February, and year-to-date for that matter, is the $115.9 million Guggenheim S&P 500 Equal Weight Consumer Staples ETF (RHS) . In another example of the advantages offered by equal weight ETFs, RHS has surged 9.3% since the start of February and is higher by nearly 4% this year. [Equal Weight ETFs for Everyone]

Critics of smart beta ETFs, of which equal weight funds qualify, allege that the out-performance of these funds can be tied to large exposure to value stocks or small-caps. The assertion being that investors put premiums on the perceived dependability and lower volatility of value stocks while putting premiums on the growth expectations of small-caps. [WisdomTree on Smart Beta ETFs]

In the case of RHS, it is not small-caps that are driving the ETF’s returns. RHS is home to 41 stocks, few of which can be considered mid-caps let alone small-caps. Rather, RHS benefits from exposure to stocks that usually are not prominently displayed in cap-weighted staples ETFs.

For example, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) and Beam (BEAM) are not much less important to RHS than are Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo (PEP). That is a goo thing when Green Mountain and Beam are up an average of 30% this year.

The standard deviation on RHS is 9.87% and the ETF’s beta is 0.97, indicating the fund is more volatile than traditional cap-weighted staples ETFs. However, over the past three years, RHS has been only slightly more volatile than its cap-weighted rivals while outperforming those funds by wide enough margins to render the modestly higher volatility a moot point.

Guggenheim S&P 500 Equal Weight Consumer Staples ETF


Tom Lydon’s clients own shares of Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble.