Consumer Stocks WhiteWave, Hain and Monster Are Staples of This Fund

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When many investors think of the consumer staples sector, predictable and slow-moving giants such as Dow components Coca-Cola (KO) and Procter & Gamble  (PG) come to mind.

Such stocks are not usually considered growth fare, but the First Trust Consumer Staples AlphaDEX Fund (FXG) dispels the notion that investing in staples -- companies that provide essential household products and are non-cyclical -- has to be slow-growth and boring.

The First Trust Consumer Staples AlphaDEX Fund takes a different approach to staples investing than popular rivals, such as the Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP) and the Vanguard Consumer Staples ETF (VDC). Those two are cap-weighted funds, meaning the holdings are weighted by market cap. That leads to lineups dominated by the likes of P&G, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo (PEP) and other familiar staples stocks.

Differences are even more apparent in returns. While cap-weighted staples funds have delivered returns in the mid-50% area over the past three years, shares of FXG have nearly doubled over that period.

The FXG's 39 holdings are weighted on a combination of growth and value factors, including 3-, 6- and 12-month price appreciation, sales to price and one year sales growth, book value to price, cash flow to price and return on assets, according to the issuer.

That methodology gives FXG a far different look than its rivals. For example, the Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR devotes almost 28% of its combined weight to P&G, Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart (WMT). In contrast, FXG allocates less than 1.9% to P&G and does not hold shares of Coca-Cola or Wal-Mart.

While the FXG holds some of the same stocks as competing staples exchange-traded funds (ETFs), the fund's growth bias is evident through allocations to companies such as WhiteWave Foods (WWAV), Hain Celestial (HAIN) and Monster Beverage (MNST). Those three stocks combine for over 12% of FXG, whereas they typically garner minuscule weights in traditional staples ETFs.

Jim Cramer, portfolio manager of Actions Alerts PLUS, is bullish on WhiteWave, FXG's largest holding with a weight of 5.2%, noting that the company "is buying assets in categories that are not easily made into private labels where margins are getting cut." Cramer said that means if a company wants to buy WhiteWave, it is going to need to pay even more.

FXG's tilt toward the growth end of the staples spectrum gives the ETF's holdings a median market value of $14.5 billion, just a fraction of the average market cap of $105.5 for the Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR's holdings.

Importantly, FXG has not subjected investors to added risk to generate that superior outcome. The ETF's three-year Sharpe Ratio, a measure of risk-adjusted returns, is 1.96 compare to 1.51 for the S&P 500 Consumer Staples Index, according to First Trust data.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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