Investors have good reason to feel whipsawed this year. The VIX, the so-called fear index, has been bouncing off levels not seen since last summer's market meltdown.
But Todd Rosenbluth, director of exchange-traded fund and mutual fund research at S&P Global Market Intelligence, said the iShares MSCI USA Minimum Volatility ETF (USMV) is a smart play for nervous investors.
"It's well-diversified across the major sectors, so you will still have some technology and consumer exposure, but you will be a little bit more defensive," said Rosenbluth. "And it's held up quite well in this volatile market."
The USMV is down 1% so far this year, compared to a 6% drop in the S&P 500 (SPY) . The VIX has jumped from below 20 at the start of 2016 to as high as 28 last week, before dropping down to 21 on Friday.
Rosenbluth also suggested conservative investors check out the PowerShares S&P 500 Low Volatility ETF (SPLV) , which is down 1.5% year to date. The SPLV ETF tracks an index consisting of the 100 least-volatile stocks within the broader S&P 500 index. This index is rebalanced and reconstituted on a quarterly basis to regularly provide exposure to lower-risk securities.
"If you really want to reduce the risk and don't care about sectors, then SPLV is a better way to go," said Rosenbluth.
He is also a fan of the ProShares S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats ETF (NOBL) , which is down 1.3% year to date. The NOBL ETF currently holds 50 constituents of the S&P 500 index that have raised their dividends for the last 25 consecutive years. Some constituents, including Hormel Foods (HRL) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) , have hiked dividends for more than 45 consecutive years.
"If a company is able to raise its dividend over 25 years in a row, then it certainly has the chance to withstand the test of time," said Rosenbluth.
Finally, Rosenbluth said anxious investors might opt for the PowerShares S&P 500 High Dividend Low Volatility ETF (SPHD) , which is up 1% so far this year. The SPHD ETF holds the 50 least-volatile high-dividend securities in the S&P 500 index. It is rebalanced on a semiannual basis. The utilities sector, which makes up 25% of assets, is overweighted relative to the S&P 500 index, while health care, at 7%, is underweighted.