Yes, there is still some time left in March, meaning there is still some time left in the best six-month period for U.S. stocks. Then again, time flies and May will be here before investors know it, bringing with it questions about whether this will be a year to “sell in May and go away.”

History shows that the May through October time frame is decidedly worse for equities than November through April, but that does not mean investors need to abandon all of their long positions on April 30. On the other hand, it must be noted that 2014 is the second year in the four-year presidential cycle and second years are typically rough on stocks. [March, April Could Bring More Upside for Stocks]

“According to Richard Tortoriello, Director of Quantitative Research for S&P Capital IQ Global Markets Intelligence (GMI), the second year of the Presidential cycle is historically the weakest of the four years, when reviewing data back to 1970 with an average 10% gain, far below the 28% gain recorded in the third year. However, most of the second year gains took place in the November-April period that is nearing a close, with just 3% average returns when starting in May. Indeed, during May and September, stocks were typically flat to down, before climbing higher in October,” according to a new research note by S&P Capital IQ.

Investors looking to stay long equities during the weak six-month period of the second year in the presidential cycle should consider conservative sectors, such as consumer staples and health care, or an ETF that has strong allocations to both groups. Enter the PowerShares S&P 500 High Quality Portfolio (NYSEArca: SPHQ), which S&P Capital rates overweight.

While the theme of ETFs based on quality factors started gaining acclaim and momentum last year, SPHQ is no new kid on the block. The ETF will turn nine later this year and currently has $342.6 million in assets under management. [Tenured Quality ETF Carries On]

SPHQ tracks the S&P 500 High Quality Rankings Index, which “is designed to provide exposure to the constituents of the S&P 500 Index that are identified as stocks reflecting long-term growth and stability of a company’s earnings and dividends,” according to PowerShares.

The ETF allocates about 30% of its combined weight to the staples and health care sectors. Industrials lead the way with a weight of 26.5%. No stock accounts for more than 1.3% of SPHQ’s weight, but the ETF does feature exposure to several names that S&P Capital IQ has four-star ratings on, including Stryker (NYSE: SYK), PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP) and Johnson (NYSE: JNJ). Styker and J&J are the ETF’s two largest health care holdings.

SPHQ’s last performance during the weak six-month period of the second of a presidential cycle, 2010, was anything but weak as the ETF gained almost 17% from May 1, 2010 to Oct. 31, 2010.

PowerShares S&P 500 High Quality Portfolio


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