The S&P 500 is up 5.7% year-to-date, but high-yield funds, both exchange traded and mutual funds, that focus on stocks with big yields have been performing even better.

That assessment jibes with recent data that indicate that since the end of February, about the time when investors started displaying a preference for value stocks over momentum fare, dividend stocks and ETFs have been outpacing the benchmark U.S. index. [Dividend ETFs Beating S&P 500 Again]

For some dividend ETFs in the high-yield camp, the primary driver of their out-performance has been the utilities sector, the top performer in the S&P 500 this year. Few ETFs bear that out better than the RevenueShares Ultra Dividend Fund (NYSEArca: RDIV).

No diversified, large-cap U.S. ETFs has a larger utilities weight than RDIV’s 43.5%. As a result, RDIV’s year-to-date gain of 9.6% is also hard to match. RDIV’s holdings are comprised of the 60 highest yielders from the S&P 900 on a trailing 12-month basis. [Utilities Sector Lifts This Dividend ETF]

The PowerShares S&P 500 High Dividend Portfolio (NYSEArca: SPHD) is another example of an outperforming dividend ETF that has benefited from utilities momentum. SPHD, which pays a monthly dividend, has a 26.5% utilities weight and has returned nearly 10% year-to-date. The ETF has also taken in nearly 13% of its assets under management just this year. SPHD has a trailing 12-month yield of almost 3.6%. [Monthly Dividend ETFs]

Not all high-yield ETFs have needed massive utilities exposure to beat the S&P 500 this year. Take the case of the iShares Core High Dividend ETF (NYSEArca: HDV). HDV has topped the S&P 500 by nearly 200 basis points this year.