NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The recent two-month slide for U.S. equities has provided a good test for the relatively new niche of low volatility ETFs.Two of the bigger funds in the space are the PowerShares S&P 500 Low Volatility Portfolio (SPLV) and the iShares MSCI USA Minimum Volatility Index Fund (USMV). SPLV has $3 billion in assets and USMV has $600 million, so these funds have found an audience among investors. The results of the two funds were noticeably different and it is worth exploring why.
The utilities sector is one that should be expected to get hit as, in a rising rate environment, utilities tend to get sold and proceeds go into bonds. This makes sense as utilities, especially regulated utilities, tend to be more bond-like than other sectors of the equity market. Currently there are many utilities with higher yields than investment grade corporate bonds making them more attractive than corporate bonds. If that current relationship changes to favor bonds yields then utilities could go down a lot. The significance to this conversation is that SPLV has 30% in utilities and USMV only has 7.6% in utilities. If utilities lead some future correction the way that technology has lead the current one then SPLV will be the fund that lags behind.