In general, the health care sector can be viewed as a defensive play during times of market upheaval, especially when you consider that exchange traded funds(ETF) can offer such diversified holdings and give just the right exposure.

Todd Shriber for Investopedia reports that medical device shares have held their own spot in the current bear market. The sector and the areas that make it up are all looking like long-term investment options that will carry strength over time. iShares Dow Jones U.S. Medical Devices (IHI) did not have a stellar 2008, however it did outperform the S&P 500.

Companies such as Medtronic (MDT) holds 10.2% of assets in IHI, and has been mentioned as a possible buyer of competitors in what is expected to be a consolidating industry. St. Jude Medical (STJ) holds 6.6% in IHI and is a dominant player in the cardiovascular health space.

Could the medical devices sector be a standout in a market recovery? Only the trend lines know. It’s not down as badly as many other ETFs, but it’s still way off the 50-day and 200-day moving averages. Bear in mind, too, that there’s some concern in the health care industry over President Barack Obama’s industry reform plan.

  • iShares Dow Jones U.S. Medical Devices (IHI): down 12% year-to-date; down 7.7% over the last three months

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.