What are we looking for?
ETFs and DIY mutual funds that made notable changes to their defensive-sector exposure over 2022.
The year is off to a great start for equity investors, with most equity indexes posting single-digit gains on a year-to-date basis, perhaps fuelled by investors’ reinvigorated confidence that the world’s central banks have inflation under control. That said, a new economic environment of higher interest rates might prompt some investors to have a look at their sector exposures, perhaps allocating more to defensive sectors for risk-reduction purposes, or to more cyclical sectors if they’re bullish on market prospects. To help identify potential candidates, I thought to analyze funds that have made noticeable moves over the course of last year. To start with, I screened the Morningstar Direct database for Canadian-domiciled equity ETFs and DIY mutual funds for those that have a reasonable track record, denoted by their Morningstar Rating for Funds or “star” rating of three stars or better, implying that the initial universe performed at least as well as category peers.
I then looked at the sector allocations of each fund as they appeared at the end of 2022 and 2021. Specifically, I used Morningstar’s “super-sector” definitions to determine which funds have the largest changes in exposure to defensive sectors. Recall that Morningstar’s classification structure for stocks divides global companies into three “super sectors”: (1) cyclicals, which include basic materials, consumer cyclical, financial services and real estate stocks; (2) defensive, which includes consumer defensive, health care and utilities stocks; and finally (3) sensitive, which includes communications services, energy, industrials and technology companies. I used the change in exposure to the defensive sector over the 2022 calendar year as the sole metric to rank the list of three-star-or-better funds.
What we found
The accompanying table includes 10 funds that have shifted their exposure toward defensive sectors the most, and the 10 funds that have shifted the furthest away from defensive sectors. The table also displays fees, trailing performance, ratings and inception dates. It is worthwhile noting that the three funds that have moved most into defensive sectors (XMTM-T, FCIL-T and IQD-T) are “smart beta” products, which are rules-based in nature and do not follow the discretion of a portfolio manager. Interestingly, the three funds are exposed to quite different factors. Also noted is the fact that several smart beta products that look for exposure to dividends (such as FCUD-T, XHU-T and VIDY-T), have shifted away from defensive sectors, while RBC’s actively managed mutual funds have increased their exposure to defensive sectors.
This article does not constitute financial advice. Investors are encouraged to conduct their own independent research before purchasing any of the investments listed here.
Ian Tam, CFA, is director of investment research for Morningstar Canada.
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