Play Defense with Multi-Factor, Smart Beta ETFs | ETF Trends

Investors considering a more defensive position in environment filled with rising uncertainty may look to a multi-factor smart beta ETF theme that combines the best qualities to help shore up a portfolio.

“Stocks with lower volatility profiles and those of higher quality have typically behaved more defensively than the overall market, doing best during slowdowns and contractions as opposed to times of recoveries and expansions,” OppenheimerFunds strategists David Mazza, Sam O’Connell and Christopher Clark said in a note.

However, OppenheimerFunds pointed out that quality has been outpacing the low-volatility factor over the past year.

In the current aging market, investors have been willing to pay up for growth, with the recent multiple expansion of quality from one year ago reflecting this trend as quality now shows a 22.79x price-to-earnings ratio, compared to 21.74x a year ago. Meanwhile, the quality factor’s expected earnings growth increased to 13.31% compared to 11.56% a year prior.

The low-volatility factor, on the other hand, has fallen behind due to concerns over rising rates and the ongoing shift toward growth names. The low-vol factor, though, is now much cheaper on a P/E ratio basis than it was a year ago and relatively cheap when compared to the broader market.

Related: Connecting Economic Regimes to Factor Exposure