A Staples ETF Soars Above its Rivals

Although Treasury yields have been surging in anticipation of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates later this year, 2015 has, thus far been a decent year for consumer staples exchange traded funds.

The Vanguard Consumer Staples ETF (NYSEArca: VDC) is up 4.1% year-to-date, which is well ahead of the 2.9% returned by the S&P 500. However, VDC’s gain is less than half that of the PowerShares DWA Consumer Staples Momentum Portfolio (NYSEArca: PSL). So strong has PSL been this year, it was one of just 12 ETFs hitting all-time highs in Tuesday’s lousy tape.

PSL’s strong 2015 showing is proof positive of several things. First, momentum and growth have been trumping value this year. Second, the smart or strategic beta phenomenon, one that is often derided on the basis of nomenclature works at the sector level, not just with diversified broad market ETFs.

PSL was one of the 10 PowerShares ETFs that were transitioned to momentum indices from Dorsey Wright & Associates in February 2014. PSL now tracks the Dorsey Wright Consumer Staples Technical Leaders Index, an index “designed to identify companies that are showing relative strength (momentum),” according to PowerShares.

PSL has other advantages. Consumer staples have been derided as vulnerable to a strong dollar, but that thesis is most applicable to the sector’s large- and mega-cap names. Think Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO), Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) and related fare. PSL allocates just 23% of its weight to large-caps, roughly the same amount it devotes to small-caps, which can endure bouts of dollar strength. [Dodge Forex Risks With Small-Cap ETFs]

Following the Heinz-Kraft merger announcement in March, we noted PSL is is home to several credible takeover targets, Hain Celestial (NasdaqGS: HAIN), Monster Beverage (NasdaqGS: MNST) WhiteWave Foods (NYSE: WWAV). Those stocks combine for nearly 11% of the ETF’s weight. [The Right ETF for Consumer Staples M&A]