4 Defensive, Low-Volatility Funds

Mockup, Typewriter, Word, Money, Wall Street, Etf

Image Source: Pixabay

I'm leaning more defensive lately, and I suggest a tilt towards quality and low volatility during these times. As far as conservative equity picks go, you're probably not going to find an ETF that fits the bill much more than ProShares S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats ETF (NOBL).

Of course, it invests exclusively in S&P 500 companies with at least a 25-year track record of consecutive annual dividend growth. On top of that, it equal weights the 60 or so names that qualify, adding another degree of diversification risk mitigation.

Ideally, I look a little more favorably upon funds that take a bit more of a forward-looking approach instead of a backwards-only view, but the dividends here are pretty secure, and there's enough diversification to limit any idiosyncratic risk.

NOBL only has 11% of assets invested in the combination of consumer discretionary and tech stocks, so there's very little in the way of growth exposure. There is, on the other hand, a lot of consumer staples, healthcare, and industrial names. The value and low volatility tilts should play well as recessionary risks grow.

FlexShares Quality Dividend Index ETF (QDF) is a bit of a riskier play, but the quality approach to security selection helps minimize any excessive risks.

This fund takes the pool of dividend-paying stocks and analyzes them using metrics, such as management efficiency, profitability, and cash flows. A dividend quality score is assigned, with only the highest making the cut. From there, the portfolio is optimized to produce an above market yield with market-like risk.

As the global economy continues to deteriorate, focusing on stocks with healthy balance sheets and cash flows is going to be critical. The market has been shunning anything speculative or unprofitable. Tech makes up nearly 30% of QDF's portfolio, so there is some concern there, but I do think the quality tilt will play well.

WisdomTree U.S. Quality Dividend Growth ETF (DGRW) might be the perfect balance between growth and quality within the dividend stock universe.

It compiles a universe of mostly large- and mid-cap dividend payers that demonstrate the best combination of quality, measured by return on assets and return on equity, and growth, measured by long-term earnings growth expectations. Qualifying components are then weighted by aggregate cash dividends paid to shareholders.

There's a lot to like about a fund such as DGRW in this type of environment. Tech, healthcare, consumer staples, and industrials all receive weightings of 18%-20% of the portfolio, so there's a nice balance between growth, defensive, and cyclical assets.

Capital Group Dividend Value ETF (CGDV) is part of Capital Group's active fund lineup that was just launched earlier this year. It invests in a broad group of large-cap dividend-paying stocks that collectively generate an above average yield while offering the opportunity for long-term growth of capital.

It tilts a little more value than growth, so there is some positioning that I think will serve the fund well. It's heavily into mega-caps, however, and that's a group that has struggled a bit, as evidenced by the walloping that most of the FAAMG names took recently.

If you scan through the top holdings, you may see some of the economy's stodgier and more mature names that should hold up relatively well if the market begins pulling back again. If October's rally proves to be more of a bear market bounce, which I suspect it is, these companies are big cash generators with built-in consumer demand. The active management aspect of CGDV could really pay off in this environment.

Pacer Global Cash Cows Dividend ETF (GCOW) uses a high free cash flow yield strategy; the ETF has a terrific long-term track record, but it's been years since it really paid off. When investors focus almost entirely on large-cap tech and growth, it's tough for more defensive, quality-oriented strategies to break through.

But break through they did in 2022. They've outperformed the S&P 500 by a wide margin this year, and GCOW has shown up near the top of my monthly top dividend ETF performers lists multiple times.

The 75-80% asset allocation to non-U.S. companies hasn't necessarily helped this year, but the focus on strong cash flow generators has been exactly what investors have wanted this year. The free cash flow yield strategy shouldn't just be a one-year wonder thing, either. This could be an ideal long-term portfolio holding with a current yield of more than 6% and a P/E ratio of just 7.


More By This Author:

An ETF Focus On Emerging Markets
6 Blockchain ETFs For 2022
ETF Focus On Dividend Funds

Disclosure: None. 

How did you like this article? Let us know so we can better customize your reading experience.

Comments

Leave a comment to automatically be entered into our contest to win a free Echo Show.