Defensive sectors such as utilities and consumer staples lagged the market in early 2012 but have closed the gap during the recent risk-off bout.

Some investors are hunkering down in these more-stable sectors and there are many ETF options to choose from.

Many traders use State Street’s Sector SPDR lineup when targeting specific U.S. industries. The ETFs include Utilities Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLU) and Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLP).

As of May 21, utilities and energy were the only sectors in negative territory for 2012. [Playing Defense with Sector ETFs in a Volatile Market]

Utilities are trailing the S&P 500 year to date, reversing last year’s trend when the sector outperformed as investors placed a premium on dividends and safety. [Utilities ETFs for Dividends, Stability]

Consumer staples are another traditional defensive sector because the companies sell necessities that consumers need in any economy. The sector is outperforming the S&P 500 along with utilities in May as investors fret over Greece and the possibility of another global slowdown. [Defensive ETFs for a Market Pullback]

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