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How to Lower the Volatility of Your ETF Portfolio

Stocks in this article: SPLV USMV PHDG VQT SPY SH

NEW YORK ( Fabian Capital Management) -- With the market starting to flatten out near the highs, many investors are starting to wonder when the next correction will set in.

We have yet to see a meaningful pullback this year, despite the omnipresent headlines warning of "The Hindenburg Omen" and a "1987 Style Crash." With those premonitions in mind, I have been looking for innovative ETF strategies that allow you to participate in this market with less risk.

One way to do that is to consider using a low volatility ETF such as the PowerShares S&P 500 Low Volatility Portfolio (SPLV) or the iShares MSCI U.S. Minimum Volatility ETF (USMV).

Both funds offer an innovative subset of stocks that have the most minimal price fluctuations with their underlying index. These ETFs make for excellent core positions in a diversified growth portfolio because of their low cost and conservative makeup.

However, the drawback with these ETFs is that in a widespread sell-off they are still susceptible to substantial declines. We have seen more and more correlation within the equity markets over the last several years, especially when selling kicks into high gear.

SPLV and USMV will most likely hold up better than their underlying indexes, but for a true risk manager there may be another alternative.

Last year the PowerShares S&P 500 Downside Hedged Portfolio (PHDG) was launched as an innovative strategy that allocates money between the equity, volatility, and cash based on a quantitative rules-based index.

The goal is to achieve favorable returns in all market conditions and to reduce the chances of getting blindsided by the next bear market. The volatility component is incorporated by purchasing CBOE Volatility Index Futures, otherwise known as the VIX.

PowerShares has labeled this as an active ETF and regularly posts updates to its website about the makeup of the portfolio in relation to the three buckets. As of today the portfolio is allocated 97.5% S&P 500 and 2.50% VIX.

Clearly the momentum has been with stocks, which is why the index is heavily weighted in equities at this time. If we start to see equities falter and volatility pick up, the portfolio will start to shift towards a more balanced allocation that will act as a hedge against the core stock exposure.

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