NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Europe's debt woes continue to steal headlines. However, as March made clear, China is increasingly becoming the dominant international elephant in the room. As the nation struggles to maintain growth and defend against a potential hard landing, certain cyclical corners of the marketplace have been greeted with substantial headwinds. The most notable victims have been the energy and materials sectors.Given that oil prices remain buoyed over the psychologically important $100-per-barrel level, investors would think that energy companies would be sitting pretty as we embark on the second quarter of 2012. This has not been the case. Rather, as China pares back its growth projections, these producers have taken a sharp shot across the bow.
When it comes to targeting the consumer, there are a variety of ways to approach. For example, the most risk-adverse individuals can turn to a dedicated fund like the Consumer Select Sector SPDR ( XLP) in order to access a pool of defensive names like Procter & Gamble ( PG) and Coca Cola ( KO). On the other side of the spectrum, those looking for additional upside can turn to a niche fund like the SPDR S&P Retail ETF ( XRT). Given the current market scenario, a middle-of-the-road approach is the best bet. Boasting attractive combinations of staple and discretionary names, products like the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Consumer Goods Index Fund ( IYK) and the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Consumer Services Index Fund ( IWC) will allow long-term minded investors to profit from consumer resilience, while defending against a potential shake up. 10 Consumer Stocks for the Stay-at-Home InvestorApril could very well end up being a strong month for the markets. However, investors should not be diving blindly into risk at this time. On the contrary, as we witnessed during March, global macroeconomic factors continue to threaten confidence. Investing in the weeks ahead will take a careful eye, a level head and perhaps most important, patience. Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.