High Beta ETF Confirms Increased Risk Appetite

The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average are flirting with all-time highs. Major small-cap benchmarks, such as the Russell 2000 and S&P SmallCap 600, accomplished that feat yesterday while the Nasdaq Composite climbed back above 5,000.

Investors needing further confirmation that risk appetite is rising might want to give the PowerShares S&P 500 High Beta Portolio (NYSEArca: SPHB). SPHB is the high beta equivalent of the wildly popular PowerShares S&P 500 Low Volatility Portfolio (NYSEArca: SPLV). More importantly, SPHB hit an all-time high Wednesday, extending its one-month gain to 3.8%, or more than triple that of the S&P 500. [The Other Side of Volatility ETFs]

SPHB tracks the S&P 500 High Beta Index, which holds the 100 S&P 500 members with the highest trailing 12-month beta, or sensitivity to market movements. A beta reading above 1 indicates that the security is more volatile than broader equities market, whereas a beta of less than 1 corresponds to lower volatility. Potential investors should know that a higher beta may generate greater returns at greater risks while low-beta securities are considered a more conservative play.

Predictably, SPHB eschews consumer staples and utilities, which combine for over a third of SPLV’s weight. However, both ETFs have large financial services weights, though SPHB’s 17.2% weight to that sector is about half that of SPLV’s.

In some ways, SPHB is an ideal ETF to consider as the Federal Reserve inches toward boosting interest rates because the cyclical sectors that comprise SPHB’s lineup often prove durable as interest rates rise. The technology, industrial and materials companies are among cyclical sectors that typically strengthen in a rising rate environment as investors turn away from safer assets and shift into riskier areas of the market. [High Beta ETF’s Time to Shine]