Many of last year’s top-performing exchange traded funds are the laggards so far in 2012 and utilities ETFs are a prime example of the reversal.

Utilities Select Sector SPDR (XLU) was down 3.4% year to date as of Jan. 23, compared with a 4.8% gain for the S&P 500, according to Morningstar. The fund rose nearly 20% in 2011 as investors flocked to more stable sectors and dividend payers. [Utilities ETFs Fall as Investors Embrace Riskier Sectors]

The utilities ETF has dipped below its 50-day moving average after ending 2011 on a high note. The fund saw volume spike on Monday, a signal that investors may be rotating away from the utilities sector following a strong run.

Utilities Select Sector SPDR has experienced notable outflows over the past week, according to ETF Channel.

The fund has a 30-day SEC yield of 4%. Top holdings are Southern Co., Dominion Resources, Exelon Corp. and Duke Energy.

Other ETFs tracking the sector include Vanguard Utilities (VPU), iShares DJ US Utilities (IDU), First Trust Utilities AlphaDEX Fund (FXU) and Rydex S&P 500 Equal Weight Utilities ETF (RYU). They are all in negative territory to start the year.

Utilities Select Sector SPDR

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of John Spence, 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.