This year has been tough on stock exchange traded funds, especially those that track foreign markets, but Standard & Poor’s believes domestic equity-based ETFs could weather the European debt storm.

Of the more than 1,000 exchange traded products available, only 192 ETFs are showing gains for the first 10 months of the year and only nine sector ETFs have increased more than 10%, writes Tom Graves, S&P Capital IQ Equity Analyst, in a research note. [ETF Spotlight: Pharmaceuticals]

“Generally stronger performance has been seen from ETFs with more of an emphasis on domestic holdings,” Graves said.

The nine best sector ETFs include three utilities, two health care, two financials, a consumer stables and one consumer discretionary.

Based on a quantitative ranking methodology, S&P Capital IQ Equity Research found that the two top performing equity ETFs were the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Pharmaceuticals Index Fund (NYSEArca: IHE) and the Utilities Select Sector Overweight SPDR ETF (NYSEArca: XLU), which both posted returns of 15% and 11% in the first 10 months of 2011, respectively. [Utilities ETFs Outperform on Safety Trade, Dividends]

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