ETF Trends
ETF Trends

With April’s jobs report due out Friday, much ado is being made of the Federal Reserve’s plans to raise or not raise interest rates.

For a while, market observers believed the Fed would lift rates in June. That sentiment, for many, has shifted to September. Some pros believe the Fed will not raise rates at all this year.

“The Federal Reserve is not going to raise rates in 2015. A bold statement perhaps, but that’s the view of DoubleLine Capital, which manages $73 billion in fixed income funds. Investor eyes are keenly focused on the April monthly employment report, due out this Friday, in the latest attempt to gain clarity when the data-dependent Federal Reserve will move to raise the Fed Funds rate. However, Bonnie Baha, head of global developed credit for DoubleLine and a member of the firm’s Fixed Income Asset Allocation committee, told S&P Capital IQ this morning that DoubleLine thinks the US economy is not strong enough to support higher rates,” said S&P Capital IQ in a research note.

Jeff Gundlach’s DoubLine is the sub-advisor for the $433 million SPDR DoubleLine Total Return Tactical ETF (NYSEArca: TOTL), one of the most successful new ETFs to debut this year. [Rapidly Successful ETFs]

Given Gundlach’s track record and asset-gathering acumen, betting against his firm’s prediction that a rate hike is not coming this year could prove foolhardy. However, looking at the way some investors are treating sector ETFs that act as bond proxies, it would appear they are betting rates are going to rise this year.

If yields fall, that would “be positive for shareholders of high dividend yielding stocks in the consumer staples and utilities sectors,” notes S&P Capital IQ.

ETFs such as the Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLP), the largest consumer staples ETF, and the Utilities Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLU) could use the help. XLP and XLU have trailing 12-month dividend yields of 2.6% and 3.4%, respectively, but that often alluring trait is seen as hazardous to portfolios’ health when bond price fall. [Sticking With Utilities ETFs]

Investors are confirming as much this year. After being the best performer among the nine sector SPDRs last year, XLU is the worst this year with a 6.5% loss. XLP has traded modestly higher, but only to place it fifth among the nine SPDRs. The Vanguard Utilities ETF (NYSEArca: VPU) has not been anything to write home about either as it is also down more than 6%.

S&P Capital IQ believes these sectors have underperformed the broader S&P 500 Index this year as investors have rotated out of these stable ‘bond proxies’ in anticipation of higher bond yields,” said the research firm.

Rotating out of those sectors is exactly what investors have done this year. As of May 5, investors had yanked $2.28 billion XLP, $687 million from XLU and $148.4 million from VPU. [Checking on Staples ETFs]

Last month, investors pulled a combined $533 million from consumer staples and utilities ETFs, according to State Street data.

Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR