Amid Turmoil, a Low Vol ETF Shines

Low volatility exchange traded funds, such as the Invesco S&P 500 Low Volatility ETF (NYSEArca: SPLV), are not designed to be exciting. However, boring can be beautiful for low volatility stocks and ETFs when growth and momentum names fall out of favor, as has been the case dating back to October.

Since U.S. equity market volatility spiked early last month, some beloved growth names are falling out of favor with some members of the FAANG quintet giving up their 2018 gains. While SPLV is not setting the world on fire over that period, the low volatility is outperforming broader equity benchmarks since the start of the fourth quarter.

“For most of 2018, the S&P 500 Low Volatility Index underperformed its parent S&P 500,” said S&P Dow Jones Indices in a recent note. “Through the first nine months of 2018, the S&P 500 climbed 11% while the S&P 500 Low Volatility Index was up only 6%. Then October came and, in one month of acute volatility, the low volatility index recaptured parity with the benchmark. Both indices were up around 3% year to date through Oct. 31, 2018. (This reversal trend continued into November and the S&P 500 Low Volatility Index now has the lead.)”

Related: DWS Offers ESG-Related ETFs for Sustainable Investing

Sector Bets

SPLV tracks the aforementioned S&P 500 Low Volatility Index. That index is not constrained at the sector level. Rather, it holds the 100 S&P 500 stocks with the lowest trailing 12-month volatility. At a time when volatility is rising across sectors, SPLV’s sector weights take on added importance.

“Volatility rose across all sectors of the S&P 500 and this gives us partial insight into the latest rebalance (reflecting data as of Oct. 31, 2018 and effective after market close Nov. 16, 2018) for the S&P 500 Low Volatility Index,” said S&P Dow Jones.