After flocking to defensive sectors when the broader market swooned late last year, investors renewed their risk appetite in the first two months of 2019. The S&P 500 posted its best January in 30 years and the benchmark U.S. equity was no slouch in February, adding 3%, resulting in the fifth-best January/February showing for U.S. stocks ever.
While most sectors are trading higher this year, defensive sectors, including consumer staples are lagging. The Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (NYSEARCA:XLP), the largest consumer staples ETF, is up 6.80% year-to-date, but that is well off the pace being set by the S&P 500.
Consumer staples ETFs usually are not as exciting as fast-growing market segments, but investors often embrace the sector for its favorable volatility and income traits. XLP has a dividend yield of 2.91% compared to 1.88% on the S&P 500.
While consumer staples ETFs are often home to some of the steadiest dividend payers in Corporate America, the sector recently endured some negative dividend news. Kraft Heinz Inc. (NASDAQ:KHC) recently announced a dramatic reduction of its quarterly dividend while Dean Foods (NYSE: DM) suspended its payout.
Some market observers believe the sector is overvalued relative to its slow growth prospects, but there are some consumer staples ETF that can deliver more exciting views on the normally sleepy sector. Here are some consumer staples ETFs to consider.
Invesco S&P 500 Equal Weight Consumer Staples ETF (RHS)
Expense ratio: 0.40% per year, or $40 on a $10,000 investment.
Like other sector funds, traditional consumer staples ETFs often feature large weights to a small number of stocks, including Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE:KO) and others. Equal-weight strategies, such as the Invesco S&P 500 Equal Weight Consumer Staples ETF (NYSEARCA:RHS), significantly reduce concentration risk with the staples sector.
RHS holds 33 stocks, none of which exceeds a weight of 4.54%. The top holding in RHS is one of the best-performing stocks in the S&P 500 this year: Coty (NYSE:CTY). RHS is also home to Monster Beverage (NASDAQ:MNST), which has delivered jaw-dropping returns over the past decade.
The near-term risk with RHS is that its largest industry allocation is an almost 38% weight to food products maker, the corner of the staples sector that is currently most under siege. On the plus side, over 57% of RHS’s holdings are classified as value stocks.
AdvisorShares Vice ETF (ACT)
Expense ratio: 0.75% per year, or $75 on a $10,000 investment.
While featured here on a list of consumer staples ETFs, the AdvisorShares Vice ETF (NASDAQ:ACT) is a credible avenue for accessing cannabis stocks. The actively managed ACT allocated a quarter of its weight to marijuana stocks as of the end February, but wait. There is more.
17% of ACT’s holdings are alcohol or tobacco companies with some cannabis exposure. Another 43% of ACT’s holdings are traditional alcohol and tobacco companies, putting this fund in the category of consumer staples ETFs.
The fund’s investment thesis “believes that investing in select alcohol and tobacco companies will provide continued growth and long-term performance across all types of market environments,” according to AdvisorShares.
iShares Evolved U.S. Consumer Staples ETF (IECS)
Expense ratio: 0.18% per year, or $18 on a $10,000 investment.
The iShares Evolved U.S. Consumer Staples ETF (CBOE:IECS), which is almost a year old, is another actively managed consumer staples ETF. IECS holds 129 stocks and is outperforming some rival cap-weighted consumer staples ETFs this year.
At its core, IECS takes a unique approach to a sector that often yearns for a breath of fresh air. That said, many of the marquee holdings in IECS are comparable to those found in traditional staples ETFs.
“The evolved sector approach uses text analysis, guided by machine learning statistical techniques, to identify words and phrases companies use to describe themselves in publicly available materials such as regulatory filings and earnings reports,” according to BlackRock.
Invesco Dynamic Food & Beverage ETF (PBJ)
Expense ratio: 0.63% per year, or $63 on a $10,000 investment.
As was noted earlier, there is some risk involved with packaged food makers, but for investors looking to bet on a rebound for that group, the Invesco Dynamic Food & Beverage ETF (NYSEARCA:PBJ) is a consumer staples ETF that makes a lot of sense. As its name implies, this consumer staples ETF is dedicated to food and beverage companies.
Owing to its unique index methodology, this fund has 15.52% of its weight in consumer discretionary stocks, so it has the potential to be somewhat more exciting than traditional consumer staples ETFs. On that note, about 43% of PBJ’s holdings are classified as growth stocks.
PBJ’s underlying index “is designed to provide capital appreciation by thoroughly evaluating companies based on a variety of investment merit criteria, including: price momentum, earnings momentum, quality, management action, and value,” according to Invesco.
Among the primary, long-term issues facing PBJ is consumers’ shifting tastes toward healthier products. Traditional candy and soda makers, some of which reside in PBJ, need to be responsive to those shifting trends.
The Organics ETF (ORG)
Expense ratio: 0.35% per year, or $35 on a $10,000 investment.
ORG “seeks exposure to companies globally that can capitalize on our increasing desire for naturally-derived food and personal care items, including companies that service, produce, distribute, market or sell organic food, beverage, cosmetics, supplements, or packaging,” according to the issuer.
ORG is not a dedicated staples ETF as the sector represents just over 58% of the fund’s weight. There is also growth feel to this fund as about 75% ORG’s holdings have market values ranging from $250 million to $5 billion. ORG has some holdings-level concentration risk as its top two holdings combine for about 33.60% of the fund’s weight.
Invesco S&P SmallCap Consumer Staples ETF (PSCC)
Expense ratio: 0.29% per year, or $29 on a $10,000 investment.
Consumer staples is usually a large-cap heavy sector, but there are opportunities to tap smaller names in the group and the Invesco S&P SmallCap Consumer Staples ETF (NASDAQ:PSCC) is the dominant name among small-cap consumer staples ETFs.
PSCC, which is almost nine years old, follows the S&P SmallCap 600 Capped Consumer Staples Index, consume staples offshoot of the widely followed S&P SmallCap 600 Index. Given the often volatile nature of small-cap stocks, PSCC can make for a nice compliment to standard small-cap funds for investors looking to offset some of that volatility.
While PSCC allocates over 42% of its weight to food products companies, the fund has managed to outperform large-cap consumer staples ETFs by wide margins over the past three years and year-to-date. Over the past five years, PSCC is beating the S&P SmallCap 600 Index by 230 basis points.
Global X MSCI Consumer Staples ETF (CHIS)
Expense ratio: 0.65% per year, or $65 on a $10,000 investment.
For investors looking for some international spice in the consumer staples trade, the Global X MSCI Consumer Staples ETF (NASDAQ:CHIS) is a fund to consider. CHIS, which debuted last December, follows the MSCI China Consumer Staples 10/50 Index.
CHIS is a long-term play on the growth of China’s middle class and the country’s increasing efforts to turn its massive economy to more domestic consumption. Food seasoning and alcohol are among the more compelling staples segments in China and CHIS is levered to those themes by allocating more than 85% of its weight to food and beverage companies.
What is compelling about CHIS compared to domestic consumer staples ETFs is that the U.S. staples market is mature while China’s is more youthful and not yet close to realizing its full potential.
Todd Shriber does not own any of the aforementioned securities.