Even with all the concern regarding higher interest rates, a scenario that was realized earlier this month, rate-sensitive consumer staples stocks and exchange traded funds have been solid performers in 2015. Two of the 14 Dow Jones Industrial Average Stocks that are up this year are staples stocks: Procter & Gamble Inc. PG, -0.82% and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. WMT, -0.62%
Add to that, the Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR XLP, -1.12% and the Vanguard Consumer Staples ETF VDC, -1.10% are up 7.7 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively, this year. Those are solid performances, particularly in the face of rising interest rates, but those are from the best showings among staples ETFs. Honors for 2015’s best staples go to the PowerShares DWA Consumer Staples Momentum Portfolio PSL, -1.01% which is up 14 percent year-to-date.
PSL is a smart or strategic beta ETF, meaning it is not capitalization-weighted as are rivals such as XLP and VDC. That also means PSL is not dominated by the likes of Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart as are XLP and traditional cap-weighted staples ETFs.
PSL’s stellar year-to-date showing relative to its cap-weighted performers could imply, to some investors, that significant risk is involved with betting on PSL over its more traditional rivals. However, that is not the case. Not only has PSL offered superior returns over standard consumer staples ETFs, the PowerShares offering has posted better risk-adjusted returns. For example, PSL’s volatility this year has been 14.6 percent, according to ETF Replay. That is 100 basis points in excess of VDC, but PSL has outpaced the Vanguard Staples ETF by 730 basis points.
PSL follows the Dorsey Wright Consumer Staples Technical Leaders Index, a benchmark that “is designed to identify companies that are showing relative strength (momentum), and is composed of at least 30 common stocks from the NASDAQ US Benchmark Index,” according to PowerShares, the fourth-largest U.S. ETF issuer.
PSL has swelled in popularity this year. When we highlighted the ETF in late September, it had less than $221 million in assets under management. Since then, PSL’s assets under management tally has surged north of $369 million. Only six PowerShares ETFs have added more new assets in 2015 than PSL.
PSL break from the norm among staples ETFs is okay because over the past year, the Dorsey Wright Consumer Staples Technical Leaders Index has offered nearly double the returns of the S&P 500 consumer staples index and over the past three- and five-year periods, PSL has topped that index. PSL started tracking the Dorsey Wright index early last year.
See www.powershares.com for a prospectus. The relative strength strategy is NOT a guarantee. There may be times where all investments and strategies are unfavorable and depreciate in value.