The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.
NEW YORK (ETF Expert) -- The prospects for corporate earnings haven't mattered much to the markets in 2011. Instead, European debt news drives stocks dramatically higher or lower.
Last week, stock assets tanked on less-than-anticipated demand for Italian bonds. This week, stocks skyrocket on better-than-expected desire for Spanish bonds.
Traders used to profit from this kind of volatility. They haven't been doing so lately. Whenever an apparent stock downtrend emerges, along comes a semi-optimistic spin on how Europe can save its banks from declaring bankruptcy or save certain countries from defaulting on debt obligations.Follow TheStreet on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook. In spite of the trendless nature of U.S. equities as a whole, however, there are pockets of strength. In fact, several non-cyclical economic sectors as well as a variety of yield-oriented segments are hitting brand new 52-week highs. Are you still searching for ways to profit with less beta risk? Then consider investing in one or more of these three bull market uptrends: 1. Pharmaceuticals (a.k.a "Big Pharma"). Uncertainty still surrounds the specifics and constitutionality of recent health care legislation. Moreover, the expiration of drug patents, generic competition and an onerous regulatory environment may cut "Big Pharma" down to size. On the other hand, there's no debating favorable demographics, as an aging baby boomer population in the U.S. and new markets in Asia contribute to greater profitability for drug makers. What's more, drug demand is far less sensitive to economic cycles than technology and consumer discretionary items. Look to PowerShares Dynamic Pharmaceuticals (PJP) or iShares DJ U.S. Pharmaceuticals (IHE) for diversified exposure. 2. Dividends and Interest. It may sound strange to declare a bull market in a "promise to pay." That said, with 10-year Treasury yields below 2%, virtually everything with a higher yield is winning. Many utilities with 4% yields, non-financial preferreds with 7% yields, pipeline master limited partnerships with 6% yields and tax-free munis with 5% to 7%-plus taxable equivalent yields are hitting 52-week price highs in December. How can you profit from the bull market in cash flow? Consider First Trust Morningstar Dividend Leaders (FDL), iShares National Muni (MUB) and/or JP Morgan Alerian MLP (AMJ).
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