Why Utilities ETFs Are So Appealing

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The net asset value of this Vanguard fund at the April 30 close was $130.80 per share. The 52-week range is $108.48 to $131.37. The fund was established in January 2004 and has an expense ratio of just 0.13%. Since its inception, the fund has posted a return of 7.25% and, over its lifetime, the total return (annualized) is 10.19%, compared to its underlying index’s return over the same period of 10.36%. Since the beginning of the year, the fund is up about 11.8%.

First Trust Utilities AlphaDEX Fund (NYSEARCA: FXU) is the third-largest utilities ETF and one of two that holds most of its assets in non-utility equities. The fund has about $1.2 billion in assets under management and tracks an equity index called the StrataQuant Utilities Index. Of the fund’s top five holdings, four are telecom providers — United States Cellular (5.76% weighting), Telephone and Data Systems (5.7%), AT&T (5.43%) and CenturyLink (5.24%) — while PPL (4.74%) is the largest utility by weight. In all, 63% of the fund’s 35 holdings are utilities stocks and 33% are telecom stocks.

The net asset value of the fund at the April 30 close was $28.39 per share. The 52-week range is $24.95 to $29.08. The fund was established in May 2007 and has an expense ratio of 0.63%. Since its inception, the fund has returned 6.19%, compared to a 7.06% return on its underlying index. The fund’s one-year return as of the end of March was 14.2%.

The iShares U.S. Utilities ETF (NYSEARCA: IDU) holds about $796 million in assets under management. of which 98% are utilities stocks. It is a non-diversified fund that was created in June 2000. The fund seeks to track the Dow Jones U.S. Utilities Index. The top five holdings are NextEra Energy, Duke Energy, Dominion Energy, Southern Company and Exelon.

The fund’s net asset value was $148.63 per share on April 30, and the 52-week range is $123.24 to $149.41. The expense ratio is 0.43% and, since its inception, the fund has returned 7.48%, compared to a return of 7.98% for the underlying benchmark. Over the past year, the fund has returned 19.01%.

Cushing Utility & MLP ETF (NYSEARCA: XLUY) has a total of about $2.6 million in assets under management and is the smallest of the funds we’ve looked at here. The fund is non-diversified and seeks to track the results of the Cushing Utility Index. Just over three-quarters (76%) of its holdings are utilities stocks. Master limited partnerships — primarily oil and gas pipeline companies — comprise 19% of the stocks holdings. The fund’s top five holdings are PPL, Southern Company, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy and Entergy.

This fund’s net asset value was $26.21 on April 30, and the 52-week range is $22.65 to $26.70. The fund was created in December 2018 and has an expense ratio of 0.65%, the highest in this group. Since its inception, the fund has returned 6.9%. There are currently 40 equities included in the fund.

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