The PowerShares S&P 500 High Dividend Portfolio (SPHD) - Get Report "is composed of 50 securities traded on the S&P 500 Index (SPY) - Get Report that historically have provided high dividend yields and low volatility," according to PowerShares.
The fund essentially adds a dividend component to the popular PowerShares S&P 500 Low Volatility Portfolio (SPLV) - Get Report, which tracks the 100 S&P 500 members with the lowest trailing 12-month volatility. That ETF, the first low-volatility fund to list in the U.S., now has $4.81 billion in assets since it debuted four years ago.
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Investors also have been steadily embracing the combo ETF this year. The PowerShares S&P 500 High Dividend Portfolio has a trailing 12-month dividend yield of 3.36%, which is nearly a full percentage point above where 10-year yields closed Thursday.
The ETF also pays its dividend monthly, providing a steady stream of payouts to income investors. Those might be two reasons why the ETF has hauled in almost $304 million of its $560 million in assets this year.
The combo ETF isn't without risks, of course. The largest sector weight in the fund, 19%, is given to utility stocks, which tend to offer both dividends and price stability. But those stocks are also vulnerable to rising interest rates.
Utilities generally lag when yields on government bonds rise. 10-year Treasury yields are up 13.6% over the past three months, so the PowerShares S&P 500 High Dividend Portfolio has managed only a modest gain over that period.
"As bond yields go up, dividend stocks tend to become relatively less attractive to investors. With bond yields currently heading north, utilities -- a staple of the dividend stock universe -- are the worst-performing sector of the S&P 500 Index so far this year," according to PowerShares.
Still, the PowerShares S&P 500 High Dividend Portfolio has some sector-level advantages that can help the fund endure rising rates, so it's still worth considering.
For example, the consumer staples and financial services sectors have two of the highest correlations to changes in 10-year Treasury yields, and no sector is more sensitive to rising 10-year yields than financials, according to PowerShares data.
That is good news for investors in the PowerShares S&P 500 High Dividend Portfolio, because the fund devotes 18.8% of its weight to financials and 17.6% to staples.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no position in the stocks mentioned.