Editors' pick: Originally published May 25.
The PowerShares S&P 500 Low Volatility ETF (SPLV) is up 3.4% thus far in 2016, outperforming the S&P 500 index by two full percentage points. Janet Brown, portfolio manager of the FundX Conservative Upgrader Fund, said after the wild ride in the first quarter it is no surprise that investors are seeking out a more subdued class of stocks.
"Given the high volatility and lackluster performance of stocks over the past year, perhaps it's not surprising that investors have flocked to less-risky companies," said Brown. "SPLV invests in the S&P 500 stocks that have been least volatile for the trailing 12 months, and SPLV has done better than the S&P 500 for most of this year."
The FundX Conservative Upgrader Fund is down 50 basis points thus far in 2016, according to Morningstar. The $54 million fund has returned an average of 4.9% annually over the past three years, outpacing 96% of its Morningstar category peers. The FundX Conservative Upgrader Fund sports a trailing 12 month yield of 1.5%, according to Morningstar.
Brown also recommends holding the iShares Select Dividend ETF (DVY) , up 9.6% year to date. She said low returns from stocks and exceptionally low yields from bonds have pushed dividends back into the spotlight.
"Sectors like utilities that benefit from steady cash flows have long used high dividend payouts to compensate investors for their relatively tepid earnings growth," said Brown. "As earnings have recently contracted, investors are willing to pay more for predictable income, especially considering that dividend oriented ETFs like DVY offer higher yields than most bond funds and ETFs."
Brown said investors seeking yield should also consider the PowerShares Preferred ETF (PGX) , up 1% year-to-date, due to its 5.8% yield.
"Preferred stocks are less senior securities, tied mainly to financials, real estate and utilities," said Brown. They offer a competitive yield to high-yield bonds and held up significantly better in the recent high-yield rout."
As for bond ETFs, Brown is positive on the Vanguard Total International Bond ETF (BNDX) , up 3.3% so far in 2016.
"BNDX has seen an added boost because its portfolio of foreign bonds is hedged back to the US dollar which has rallied due to both the relative strength of the US economy and now relatively higher yield of US debt," said Brown.