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ETFs to Bet On as Fed Turns Hawkish, Signals Tapering

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In the FOMC meeting that concluded on Sep 22, the Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell kept the interest rates near zero at 0-0.25% but signaled bond-buying tapering ahead followed by interest rate hikes as early as next year.

The central bank is expected to begin scaling back the monthly bond purchases as soon as November and complete the process by mid-2022. This is because it expects the Delta variant of the coronavirus, which has dented economic activity in the recent months, to have a short-lived effect on the recovery. Per the officials, the economy will likely make “substantial further progress” by the end of the year, a threshold needed for the central bank to begin slowing the pace of asset purchases (read: Buy the Dip With These Top-Ranked ETFs).

Fed Chair Jerome Powell reiterated that he believes the U.S. economy has already surpassed the central bank's goals for inflation, and said a "reasonably good" September jobs report would indicate that the Fed's employment goals to begin tapering had been satisfied as well. Notably, the central bank has been buying $120 billion per month of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

The policy statement also revealed that nine of 18 Fed policymakers foresee a liftoff in interest rates next year, compared to seven policymakers in June. The median dot also projects three to four total rate hikes by the end of 2023. Through the end of 2024, the median FOMC member sees six to seven total rate hikes.

Given this, investors should continue to focus on areas/sectors that will benefit the most from the Fed’s tightening policy. Here, we have detailed four of these and their ETFs below:

Financials

A rising interest rate scenario is highly profitable for the financial sector. This is because the steepening yield curve would bolster profits for banks, insurance companies, and discount brokerage firms. A broad way to play this trend is with Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLF - Free Report) , which has a Zacks ETF Rank #1 (Strong Buy) with a Medium risk outlook.

This is the most popular financial ETF in the space with AUM of $40 billion and an average daily volume of about 43 million shares. The fund follows the Financial Select Sector Index, holding 65 stocks in its basket. It is heavily concentrated on the top two firms, making up for double-digits share each while other firms hold no more than 7.2% share. In terms of industrial exposure, banks take the top spot at 37.5% while capital markets, insurance, and diversified financial services make up for double-digit exposure each. The fund charges 12 bps in annual fees and is up 27.5% in the year-to-date timeframe (read: 401(k) Balances at All-Time Highs: 6 ETFs to Buy).

Consumer Discretionary

Consumer discretionary stocks also seem good bets. This is because a tight policy is seemingly the result of a pickup in economic growth supported by solid job growth, wage growth and increased lending activity that result in higher spending power. One exciting pick in this space can be Vanguard Consumer Discretionary ETF (VCR - Free Report) , which has a Zacks ETF Rank #1 with a Medium risk outlook (read: ETF Areas to Gain From the Upcoming Holiday Shopping Season).

This fund follows the MSCI U.S. Investable Market Consumer Discretionary 25/50 Index and holds 296 stocks in its basket. It has heavy concentration on the top firm – Amazon (AMZN - Free Report) – at 23.5% share while the other firms hold no more than 10% of the assets. The product has managed $6.7 billion in its asset base and charges 10 bps in annual fees. In terms of industrial exposure, Internet & direct marketing, retail takes the largest share at 27.6% while automobile manufacturers, restaurants, and home improvement retail round of the next three spots. The ETF trades in average daily volume of 59,000 shares and has gained 15.8% in the same timeframe.

Technology

In a tight policy era, technology seems one of the safest sectors as most of the companies are sitting on a huge cash pile. The cash reserves will ensure that these companies are not plagued by any financial trouble even in a rising interest rate environment. While there are several ETFs to bet on, First Trust NASDAQ-100-Technology Sector Index Fund (QTEC - Free Report) could be an intriguing option. It has a Zacks ETF Rank #1 with a High risk outlook.    

This ETF tracks the NASDAQ-100 Technology Sector Index, holding 41 stocks in its basket with almost equal allocation. From an industry look, software and semiconductors dominate the list with 34.9% and 32.7% share, respectively, while production technology equipment and consumer digital services make up for the next two spots. QTEC is a large cap centric fund with AUM of $3.9 billion and average daily volume of around 66,000 shares. It charges 57 bps in annual fees and gained 19.6% so far this year.

Dollar

Tightening policy and higher rates would attract more capital to the country from foreign investors, thereby boosting the U.S. dollar against the basket of other currencies. Invesco DB US Dollar Index Bullish Fund (UUP - Free Report) offers exposure to a dollar against a basket of six world currencies. This is done by tracking the Deutsche Bank Long USD Currency Portfolio Index - Excess Return plus the interest income from the fund’s holdings of U.S. Treasury securities. In terms of holdings, UUP allocates nearly 57.6% in euro and 25.5% collectively in the Japanese yen and British pound. The fund has so far managed an asset base of $487.9 million and sees an average daily volume of around 697,000 shares. It charges 76 bps in annual fees and has gained 3.5% so far this year. The fund has a Zacks ETF Rank #2 with a Medium risk outlook (read: U.S. Dollar to Gain Ahead? ETFs to Gain/Lose).