Cyclical stocks and sector-related exchange traded funds are pushing ahead while safer, low-beta areas begin to fall behind.

For instance, the Technology Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLK) rose 4.4%, Industrial Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLI) increased 3.3% and Materials Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLB) rose 5.3% month-to-date, according to CNBC.

The technology, industrial and materials companies are among cyclical sectors that typically strengthen in a rising rate environment as investors turn away from safer assets and shift into riskier areas of the market.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields have increased almost 35 basis points to 1.988% so far this month. The sudden change in sentiment over February has fueled a return to high-beta, or more volatile, stocks. [If Treasury Yields Rise, Consider These Sector ETFs]

For example, XLK has a 0.98 beta reading, XLI has a 1.2 beta and XLB has a 1.26 beta. In contrast, the Utilities Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLU), which was the only sector to dip in February, falling 2.5%, has the lowest beta reading of 0.32.

Beta is a common measure of volatility, or systematic risk, of a security or portfolio, compared to the broader marketplace. A beta reading above 1 indicates that the security is more volatile than broader equities market, whereas a beta of less than 1 corresponds to lower volatility. Potential investors should know that a higher beta may generate greater returns at greater risks while low-beta securities are considered a more conservative play.

Investors who want to capture a rally in cyclical sector stocks can also take a look at the PowerShares S&P 500 High Beta Portolio (NYSEArca: SPHB). The high-beta portfolio is the opposite play to the PowerShares S&P 500 Low Volatility Portfolio (NYSEArca: SPLV). SPHB takes 100 S&P 500 index stocks that have exhibited the highest sensitivity to market movements, or beta, over the past 12 months and includes a heavy tilt toward tech 20.3%, financials 20.1%, consumer discretionary 19.7% and industrials 17.5%, with zero exposure to utilities. [Have it Both Ways With Volatility ETFs]

Over the past month, SPHB has increased 1.9%, whereas SPLV rose 0.8%.

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Max Chen contributed to this article.

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