Not Just Sector Funds: Other ETFs Benefit From Utilities Leadership

April 7th at 10:00am by Todd Shriber

Declining 10-year Treasury yields and the significant retrenchment in momentum stocks have been boons for the utilities sector this year.

The Utilities Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLU) is by far the best performer of the nine sector SPDR ETFs. Up 11.8% year-to-date, XLU is crushing the second-best of the SPDRs, the Health Care Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLV). The Vanguard Utilities ETF (NYSEArca: VPU) and the iShares U.S. Utilities ETF (NYSEArca: IDU) are also up more than 11%. [Utilities ETFs Assert Strength]

But it is more than just XLU and friends that are benefiting from the leadership of the utilities sector. Select dividend and low volatility ETFs are also getting a lift thanks to robust utilities sector exposure.

Take the example of the PowerShares S&P 500 Low Volatility Portfolio (NYSEArca: SPLV). Arguably in stealth fashion, the $3.8 billion SPLV hit an all-time high last Friday and is up about 3.7% year-to-date compared to a 2.1% gain for its biggest competitor, the iShares MSCI USA Minimum Volatility ETF (NYSEArca: USMV). The difference maker is SPLV’s 24.5% weight to utilities stocks, more than triple that of USMV’s to the sector. [Low Vol ETFs Come Back Into Style]

That is not an affront to iShares because the sponsor offers two U.S.-focused dividend ETFs that have benefited from ample utilities exposure. Of the four largest dividend ETFs, the iShares Select Dividend ETF (NYSEArca: DVY) is easily the best performer this year with a 5% gain. That is proof positive that with Treasury yields ebbing, DVY’s 35.2% weight to the utilities sector is working in favor of investors.

It were large enough to be among the top-four dividend ETFs, the iShares High Dividend ETF (NYSEArca: HDV) would be second-best on a year-to-date basis with a 3.6% gain. HDV, though not small with $3.4 billion in assets, is not in the top four, but it does feature a 14.4% weight to utilities. HDV has attracted more than $108 million in new assets this year and has a trailing 12-month yield of 3.2%. [Income Investors Rush to This Dividend ETF]

Investors looking to access the utilities sector via a dividend ETF can also consider the First Trust Morningstar Dividend Leaders Index Fund (NYSEArca: FDL). FDL tracks the Morningstar Dividend Leaders Index, which emphasizes dividend consistency and dividend sustainability as part of its screening methodology.

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