“So depending on which specific sectors within the U.S. equity market that the investor favors and wants specific exposure to, these will likely be deciding factors in terms of selecting between the two funds,” said Street One Financial regarding SPLV and USMV in November 2013.

The utility of utilities, which could easily be strained if Treasury yields race higher again, has been seen with other ETFs this year. For example, dividend ETFs with significant allocations to utilities stocks have outpaced some dividend funds without much exposure to that sector. [Utilities Help Some Dividend ETFs]

Take the example of the PowerShares S&P 500 High Dividend Portfolio (NYSEArca: SPHD). SPHD marries a high yield strategy with a low volatility strategy similar to SPLV’s, giving the fund an almost 26% weight to utilities stocks. SPHD has been less bad than SPLV, USMV and the S&P 500 this year.

PowerShares S&P 500 Low Volatility Portfolio