Exchange-traded funds offer a convenient way to invest in sectors or niches that interest you. If you'd like to add some defensive consumer-staples stocks to your portfolio to serve as ballast in the event of a market downturn, the Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR
ETFs often sport lower expense ratios than their mutual fund cousins. The staples ETF's expense ratio -- its annual fee -- is a very low 0.18%. It recently yielded 2.6%, too.
This ETF has outperformed the world market over the past three, five, and 10 years. As with most investments, of course, we can't expect outstanding performances in every quarter or year. Investors with conviction need to wait for their holdings to deliver.
With a low turnover rate of 4%, this fund isn't frantically and frequently rejiggering its holdings, as many funds do.
What's in it?
More than a handful of consumer-staples stocks had strong performances over the past year. You might not expect heady appreciation from an old, established candy company, but Hershey
Drugstore giant CVS Caremark
Procter & Gamble
Other companies didn't do as well last year but could see their fortunes change in the coming years. Archer Daniels Midland
The big picture
Demand for consumer staples, by definition, isn't going away anytime soon. A well-chosen ETF can grant you instant diversification across any industry or group of companies -- and make investing in and profiting from it that much easier.
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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian, whom you can follow on Twitter, owns shares of Procter & Gamble, but she holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out her holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Express Scripts. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Express Scripts, Procter & Gamble, and Coventry Health Care. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.