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Utilities ETFs Like XLU Are Charging Higher

This article was originally published on ETFTrends.com.

The Utilities Select Sector SPDR (XLU) , the largest utilities ETF by assets, and rival utilities ETFs are soaring this year. With expectations in place that the Federal Reserve may not hike interest rates this year, some defensive, rate-sensitive sectors are delivering impressive performances.

The utilities sector was suppose to be a throw away investment as many anticipated a strong economy with a full labor market to push up interest rates, which traditionally weighed on the bond-like utilities stocks.

However, with inflation relatively under control and benchmark Treasury yields still stuck around 3%, utilities remain attractive for yield hunters. Moreover, after the recent bout of volatility, investors are still still looking at the bond-esque sector as a safe way to remain the game and generate some extra dividends on the side.

“Companies with high debt, such as utilities, get hit hard by rising interest rates as the cost of borrowing increases. Slowing global economic growth is expected to keep a hold on the Fed's rate hike plans this year,” reports CNBC.

High Dividends Back In Style

Last year, some high dividend sectors struggled against the backdrop of rising interest rates until later in the year when stocks swooned, prompting investors to revisit defensive sectors. XLU has a dividend yield of 3.05%, well above the yield of 1.80% on the S&P 500.

“The second thing is these are some of the highest dividend-yielding stocks, and in this environment of slumming growth, increased uncertainty, it's nice to have some lifeboat stocks just in case you happen to hit a storm,” said Erin Gibbs, portfolio manager at S&P Global, in an interview with CNBC. “These two combinations are really what's bringing investors back to these stocks when they've been so out of favor for so long.”

Investors have added $78.50 million to XLU this year as the fund is higher by more than 10%.

Rivals to XLU include the Vanguard Utilities ETF (VPU) , Fidelity MSCI Utilities Index ETF (FUTY) , iShares U.S. Utilities ETF (IDU) and the Reaves Utilities ETF (UTES).

For more information on the utilities sector, visit our utilities category.