The last year and a has have been anything but typical on the stock markets. Bear markets, meme stocks, crazy volatility, and high-flying technology stocks may have left your head spinning about what to expect. You might have dumped some of your bank stocks last year only to see them bounce back this year, or loaded up on some speculative tech stock or meme stock only to watch it come back to earth.
Hopefully that's not the case, as investing is all about the long term and riding out the market volatility, but if you have been burned by the stock market, you may want to consider the diversified approach to investing that exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, offer. Here are two ETFs that seek to dial down the volatility while still seeking to deliver market-beating performance.
SPDR MSCI USA Strategic Factors ETF
The SPDR MSCI USA Strategic Factors ETF (NYSEMKT:QUS) follows what is called a "smart beta" or "enhanced indexing strategy," whereby it invests in a customized index based on certain factors. In this case, it invests in stocks that are low-volatility, high-quality, and attractively valued, with the idea of producing returns that outperform traditional benchmarks with less risk. It is a combination of three indexes -- the MSCI USA Value Weighted Index, the MSCI USA Quality Index, and the MSCI USA Minimum Volatility Index, all equally weighted in the portfolio.
Because it draws from three different indexes, it is well diversified with 620 holdings, including a mix of large- and mid-cap stocks. The largest holding is Microsoft at 2.91%, followed by Apple at 2.50%, and Johnson & Johnson at 2.09%.
I rate this fund among the very best of low-volatility ETFs. It doesnʻt have as long of a track record as some other ETFs, but the returns have been steady since inception in 2015. This year it is up about 12% year to date, which beats both the S&P 500 and the Russell 1000 index through May 27. Over the past five years it has posted an annualized return of 16.1%, which slightly trails both of the above benchmarks. But remember, this fund started in the middle of a long bull market. It showed its value in 2018 when it was down only 3% while both the Russell 1000 and S&P 500 were down over 6%. Given more time and a longer track record, this ETF should stand out for those not comfortable with volatile markets.
Invesco S&P 500 Equal Weight Technology ETF
The Invesco S&P 500 Equal Weight Technology ETF (NYSEMKT:RYT) is a little different from your typical technology sector ETF. It invests in the big tech names that have driven the stock market over the past decade-plus, but as it is equally weighted, it is more diversified and less risky than some of its competitors.
This ETF tracks the S&P 500 Equal Weight Information Technology Index, so it invests in the 75 largest IT stocks on the market. But whereas most ETFs are market-weighted, meaning the larger the market cap the bigger the position, this is equal-weighted, and no holding is larger than 1.64%. Instead of the usual suspects, the three largest holdings in this ETF are Norton LifeLock, DXC Technologies, and Seagate Technology Holdings. For investors who want to invest in technology but are concerned about volatility, this is a great choice.
The ETF has put up great returns that have beaten the S&P 500 since it launched in 2006. It is up about 10% year to date through May 27, which slightly trails the 11% year to date return of the S&P 500. But over the previous five- and 10-year periods, it has returned 27.1% and 18.5%, respectively, as of April 30. Since its inception this ETF has posted a stellar average annual return of 14.3%. The expense ratio is 0.40%, which is lower than the category average.
If this past year has left you unsure of which way to turn in the stock markets, these are two excellent choices for strong performance with lower volatility and less risk.