NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- If history is any indication, U.S. markets are overdue for a correction, but a few tweaks to your portfolio can make a pullback a bit less painful.
Throughout the past 40 years, there have been 11 corrections, or declines of 10% to 19.9%, according to analysis from Sam Stovall, U.S. equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ.
"Corrections have occurred about once every 3-1/3rd years," Stovall said. "The S&P 500 has gone 3.8 years since the conclusion of the last correction in early October 2011." That drop followed the August 2011 downgrade of the U.S. credit rating by S&P, the first in the country's history, and its timing means the markets are about five months overdue for another.
One way to insulate yourself from that is to increase your exposure to international equities, particularly in Europe.
"International diversification is particularly important," said David Lebovitz, global markets strategist at J.P. Morgan (JPM) - Get Report Funds. "When we look at the European economy, they're a few years behind the U.S., so I think there's more room for them to grow."
One of the reasons U.S. markets have gone so long without a correction is the unprecedented intervention by the Federal Reserve via quantitative easing and low interest rates. As the Fed begins to pull back, however, central bankers in Europe are becoming more active in bolstering the eurozone economy. The European Central Bank just launched a $1.2 trillion stimulus in March, in order to lift growth.
Lebovitz said one of the most attractive spaces in European equities is financials.
"We're hearing credit conditions are improving in Europe, the credit cycle is picking up and that should be supportive of earnings growth for financials institutions," said Lebovitz.
He also likes cyclical sectors, which include the consumer discretionary area. The SPDR MSCI Europe Consumer Staples ETFrose 13% since the start of the year. It includes names like Nestle SA (NSRGF) and Anheuser-Busch InBev (AHBIF) .
And don't forget bonds. Yes, the Fed is likely to raise interest rates this fall and that might push down prices, but bonds are still a valuable safeguard against stock-market declines, Lebovitz stressed.
"The best way to hedge against a correction in equity markets is to maintain a position in high-quality fixed income," he said. "That's the part of your portfolio that will zig when the equity part zags during the midst of a correction."
Gennadiy Goldberg, a U.S. strategist with TD Securities, also recommends bonds, particularly Treasuries, as a hedge.
"If you buy the story that the Fed will only hike rates gradually, longer-dated fixed income could remain attractive as inflation remains very low," he said. "In fact, shorter-dated Treasury paper will likely bear the brunt of the selloff when the Fed hikes rates, so you could ostensibly see a scenario where longer-dated Treasuries become an attractive investment despite rate hikes."
Economists expect the Fed will raise interest rates as little 25 basis points initially after keeping them around zero since the financial crisis to bolster the economy. Increases will likely be slow, analysts said, since the central bank doesn't want to shock markets too much.