Among the sectors vulnerable to rising interest rates, real estate and utilities are arguably the usual suspects, but investors would do well to view consumer staples stocks through a similar lens.

The Consumer Staples Select SPDR (NYSEArca: XLP) saw $271 million in net outflows over the past week, according to and XLP, the largest consumer staples exchange traded fund by assets, has 3% over the past 10 days. That could be a sign investors are treating staples stocks as potentially vulnerable as the Federal Reserve inches toward a December rate hike.

XLP and rival staples ETFs have already had their hands full this year with rising rate-related issues. For example, several of the largest staples names have reported lackluster earnings, blaming the strong dollar for weak overseas currency conversions. The dollar has been rising in anticipation of the Fed boosting borrowing costs.

“Margins appear to be getting squeezed this year, and the strong USD isn’t helping things by acting as a headwind to revenue growth from abroad, resulting in a forecast decline in EPS this year. Estimates for next year look better. In any case Consumer Staples stocks have seen their P/E multiples expand considerably over the last five years. As a result these stocks appear rather expensive, and Staples has an UNDERWEIGHT recommendation,” according to AltaVista.

There are other issues to consider as well. The consumer staples space, notably food companies, is experiencing slower growth. According to FactSet, quarterly revenues for companies on the food-products index declined 10.5% year-over-year, with 57% of companies having reported.

Showing Page 1 of 2