ETFs tracking master limited partnerships outperformed the S&P 500 in 2011 as investors favored income-producing sectors, but MLP funds are trailing the market so far this year in the risk-on environment.

ALPS Alerian MLP ETF (NYSEArca: AMLP) posted a total return of about 10% last year. The fund is up 1.6% year to date, while the S&P 500 has rallied 12.6%.

MLPs focus on the transportation, storage and processing of energy, including oil and natural gas. The companies enjoy tax breaks and are less sensitive to commodity prices than energy companies. [Master Limited Partnership ETFs]

JPMorgan Alerian MLP Index ETN (NYSEArca: AMJ) is an exchange traded note that covers the asset class. Also, Yorkville High Income MLP ETF (NYSEArca: YMLP) listed last month. [High Income MLP ETF Launches]

The MLP funds are lagging the S&P 500 this year with investors taking on more risk and focusing less on yield. Some investors use MLPs to diversify because of their low correlation with the stock market. [MLP ETFs Attract Yield Hunters]

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