There are a variety of factors currently at play that should be making the utilities sector and the relevant exchange traded funds appealing to investors.
Geopolitical tensions are high, U.S. stocks weakened in July and plenty of market observers believe the blush has come off the high-yield bond rose in a big way. However, utilities stocks and ETFs have been anything but a safe havens and recent weakness for the group could a harbinger of more of the same ahead. [Gold ETFs Get a Lift From Global Tensions]
The Utilities Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLU) and the Vanguard Utilities ETF (NYSEArca: VPU) fell an average of 6% in July, or triple the 2% incurred by S&P 500. XLU and VPU are each off about 1% Monday, both on above average volume, while the S&P 500 is modestly higher. Add to that, utilities ETFs are trading low while 10-year Treasury yields are doing the same. None of those can be seen as positive signs for a sector that was the top performer in the S&P 500 earlier this year. [Some Sector ETFs Falling out of Favor]
A month ago, XLU was up almost 15%, making it one of the best performing sectors year to date. The strong rally over the past 8 months took XLU to the top of its rising trend channel and back to the highs reached back in 2007,” said Chris Kimble of Kimble Charting Solutions. “Last month XLU gave back about a third of its year to date gains after hitting dual resistance at (1) and recently broke below a short-term support line.”
Although utilities ETFs are displaying sour price action, some investors are taking the opposite side of the trade and betting on a rebound. Last week, VPU, the iShares U.S. Utilities ETF (NYSEArca: IDU) and the Fidelity MSCI Utilities Index ETF (NYSEArca: FUTY) added almost $250 million in new assets combined, more than enough to offset outflows from XLU.