Spending to Support Loftier Consumer ETF Valuations | ETF Trends

The effects of lower oil prices will take a while to trickle through the economy, but consumer sector stocks and related exchange traded funds may have already priced in the potential boost to spending.

Year-to-date, the Market Vectors Retail ETF (NYSEArca: RTH) advanced 4.9% and Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLY) increased 3.8%, compared to the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSEArca: SPY) rise of 2.2%. The consumer-related ETFs are hovering around all-time highs. [Retail, Discretionary ETFs Race to All-Time Highs]

RTH now trades at a price-to-earnings ratio of 21 and XLY has a P/E of 18.4, whereas SPY is showing a 17.3 P/E.

Oppenheimer Funds’ Alec Young argues that it typically takes a while to upwardly revise areas that receive a boost from lower crude oil prices, such as retail and discretionary consumer goods, reports Tom DiChristopher for CNBC.

“We actually think there could be an upward bias in earnings estimates as we move through the year if in fact oil has bottomed,” DiChristopher said on CNBC.

Some companies may already be enjoying a windfall from the increased consumer spending. For instance, Wal-Mart’s (NYSE: WMT) recent decision to raise wages for some 500,000 employees could help support the case for positive corporate earnings outlook since wage growth is a significant driver of margins. WMT makes up 10.9% of RTH.

Moreover, the improving economic outlook and expanding job market are also lifting consumer confidence. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index’s monthly economic expectations gauge inched up 1 point to 54 over January, its highest level in four years, Bloomberg reports.