A Look at 2013’s Top Staples ETF

Consumer staples stocks are notoriously slow-moving, but the sector’s reputation for dependable dividend growth and decent yields has made it a favored destination for scores of income investors.

Those attributes have also compelled investors to pour billions of dollars into exchange traded funds tracking the consumer staples sector. But in a strong bull market, such as the one investors have been treated to in 2013, lower beta sectors, including staples, have a propensity to lag the broader market. For example, the two largest staples ETFs are up an average of 23% while the S&P 500 is higher by 27.7%.

Investors willing to take on some added risk with the staples sector were rewarded this year. That is if they embraced the PowerShares S&P SmallCap Consumer Staples Portfolio (NasdaqGS: PSCC). PSCC is intended to be the small-cap answer to the Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLP), a fund PSCC has easily outpaced this year. [Market may not Like What Staples ETFs are Saying]

Not only has PSCC outpaced its large-cap equivalents, but the fund has also slightly outperformed the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (NYSEArca: IWM) on its way to a 38.2% year-to-date gain, enough to make PSCC this year’s best consumer staples ETF.

As was highlighted with this year’s best utilities ETF, there were also trade-offs to be made for those that opted for PSCC over a traditional staples fund. For example, as was seen in the utilities example, investors made a yield sacrifice with PSCC, which is not surprising because this is a small-cap ETF. PSCC’s 30-day SEC yield is 0.49% compared to 2.42% on XLP. [Meet 2013’s Top Utility ETF]

Not only are staples the second-priciest S&P 500 sector behind discretionary at the moment, but staples are also trading above their five- and 10-year averages. With PSCC being a small-cap fund that offers exposure to some growth in a sector where growth is usually hard to come by, investors have paid up for the privilege. The ETF has a P/E ratio of almost 21.3, well above XLP’s and that of the S&P 500 Consumer Staples Index. [Financials: The Rodney Dangerfield Sector]

However, PSCC has walked the walk. The ETF’s two largest holdings – Hain Celestial (NasdaqGM: HAIN) and Darling International (NYSE: DAR) are up an average of 34%. Another top-10 holding, Boston Beer (NYSE: SAM), is up nearly 68%. Those stocks combine for 29% of PSCC’s weight.

The S&P SmallCap 600 Capped Consumer Staples Index, PSCC’s underlying index has outperformed the S&P SmallCap 600 Index this year and over the past three years, according to PowerShares data.

PowerShares S&P SmallCap Consumer Staples Portfolio

ETF Trends editorial team contributed to this post. Tom Lydon’s clients own shares of IWM.

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