Lower-Beta Stock ETFs For A Safer September

by: Gary Gordon

How many articles are going to emphasize how bad the month of August treated investors? The fact that U.S. stocks in the S&P 500 shed -5.7% speaks for itself. On the other hand, the reality that August had been down as much as -13.3% in eight trading days earlier is far more telling.

Ironically, you still read how the U.S. credit downgrade is to blame for the troubles. If that were true, the iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond Fund (NYSEARCA:IEF) wouldn’t have gained 3.3% in August. In truth, U.S. Treasuries are still safe haven investments ... at double-A or at triple-A.

Nevertheless, the S&P action did highlight what many Americans already feel - a severe lack of confidence in governance. And that’s not all we feel. We have grave doubts about (a) the political process, (b) the safety of our financial institutions, (c) the value of our homes and (d) the creation of new jobs. Downgrade, clown-grade.

If there’s one area that investors seem to have some faith (maybe too much of it), it’s with Bernanke’s Fed. QE1 reduced the shock of the Great Recession, while QE2 helped reflate asset prices to multi-year highs. The fact that the Fed will seriously consider some form of QE3 in a two-day September meeting gave a portion of the investing community reason to buy the August sell-off.

The question is, will more bond purchasing and subsequent dollar devaluation be as effective on the third go-around? Put another way, 91,000 private sector jobs is weak. Yet if the Friday jobs report doesn’t show much slower job creation and an uptick in unemployment, don’t count on the Fed for extraordinary stimulus measures.

In the meantime, this market still belongs to traders who live and breathe on the headlines. September may be every bit as volatile and every bit as unpredictable as August.

In the table below, I have delineated some of the more prominent ETF winners and losers from August. In bold, I have identified investments to consider if you feel you have too much cash under the mattress.

August Round-Up: Stock ETFs And The S&P 500
Approx 1-Month %
S&P SPDR Select Sector Utilities (NYSEARCA:XLU) 3.3%
First Trust Dividend Leaders (NYSEARCA:FDL) 2.1%
Pharmaceutical HOLDRS (NYSEARCA:PPH) 2.0%
S&P SPDR Select Sector Staples (NYSEARCA:XLP) 1.8%
SPDR Dividend Aristocrats (NYSEARCA:SDY) 1.8%
Vanguard Health Care (NYSEARCA:VHT) 0.9%
WisdomTree Dividend Ex-Financials (NYSEARCA:DTN) 0.9%
PowerShares Dynamic Food/Beverage (NYSEARCA:PBJ) 0.7%
PowerShares Low Volatility S&P 500 (NYSEARCA:SPLV) 0.1%
S&P 500 -5.7%
First Trust DJ Microcap (NYSEARCA:FDM) -8.9%
iShares MSCI South Korea (NYSEARCA:EWY) -11.1%
iShares DJ Oil Equipment & Services (NYSEARCA:IEZ) -12.6%
Guggenheim Global Solar Energy (NYSEARCA:TAN) -13.5%

Disclosure: Gary Gordon, MS, CFP is the president of Pacific Park Financial, Inc., a Registered Investment Adviser with the SEC. Gary Gordon, Pacific Park Financial, Inc, and/or its clients may hold positions in the ETFs, mutual funds, and/or any investment asset mentioned above. The commentary does not constitute individualized investment advice. The opinions offered herein are not personalized recommendations to buy, sell or hold securities. At times, issuers of exchange-traded products compensate Pacific Park Financial, Inc. or its subsidiaries for advertising at the ETF Expert web site. ETF Expert content is created independently of any advertising relationships.