How to Use Low-Volatility ETFs | ETF Trends

PowerShares S&P 500 Low Volatility Portfolio (NYSEArca: SPLV) has been one of the most successful ETFs launched over the past year, gathering nearly $2 billion in a risky market that’s seemingly tailor-made for its conservative strategy.

SPLV has delivered a total return of 14.8% for the trailing 12 months, compared with 9.1% for the S&P 500, according to Morningstar. Year to date, the ETF is up 7.3% versus a 9.1% gain for the U.S. blue-chip index. [Low-Volatility ETFs to Protect Against Market Gyrations]

Other low-volatility ETFs for U.S. stocks include iShares MSCI USA Minimum Volatility Fund (NYSEArca: USMV) and Russell 100 Low Volatility ETF (NYSEArca: LVOL). [Low-Volatility ETFs: Wait For Full Market Cycle?]

Not surprisingly, these “low-vol” funds tend to outperform the S&P 500 in risk-off bouts. For example, SPLV held up much better during the August 2011 sell-off and during the recent May pullback.

“For investors determined to stick with stocks but not loving the latest Maalox-inducing moments, plugging into low-volatility ETFs can be an intriguing solution,” writes YCharts editor Carla Fried at

SPLV tracks a specialized index of the 100 stocks from the S&P 500 with the lowest volatility over the past year. Volatility is a measure of how much a security tends to jump around in price.