Stocks continue to drift sideways with an upward bias as cautious optimism surrounding the looming fiscal cliff has proven to be a dominant theme on Wall Street. Choppy trading has become the norm as mixed data releases have kept a lid on confidence, including lackluster ISM and factory orders data coupled with upbeat construction spending and weekly jobless claims. Amid the uncertain landscape, industry veteran PowerShares has debuted a hands off ETF that may provide a refuge from rampant volatility, offering exposure to the S&P 500 Index with a twist . The PowerShares S&P 500 Downside Hedged Portfolio (PHDG) is designed to offer investors broad equity market exposure along with an impliedvolatilityhedge. This new ETF uses a quantitative, rules-based methodology to dynamically allocate itsnotionalinvestments among three components: equity, volatility and cash .


S&P 500 ETFs With A Twist

This new addition to the PowerShares lineupisintriguing, but far from unique. Investors can choose from a handful of ETPs that give them the flexibility to access the popular S&P 500 Index with a twist. In fact, PHDG is based on the same strategy as an existing ETN from Barclays iPath; the S&P VEQTOR ETN (VQT) is also linked to theS&P 500 Dynamic VEQTOR Total Return Index. However, this competitor charges 0.95% in expense feesversusPHDG's price tag of only 0.39% .

PowerShares already offers the most popular S&P 500 ETF with a twist; the S&P 500 Low Volatility Portfolio (SPLV) has amassed animpressive $3 billion in assets under management sincelaunchingin mid-2011. This fund selects 100 stocks with the lowest realized volatility over the past year from the broad index. Other ETFs with a unique take on the well-known S&P benchmark include:

  • Direxion S&P 500 Volatility Response Shares (VSPY):This ETF uses a quantitative strategy to shift exposure between the S&P 500 and cash depending on volatility conditions.
  • PowerShares S&P 500 High Beta Portfolio (SPHB):This fund holds 100 stocks from the S&P 500 that are deemed to have the highest sensitivity to market movements over the past year.
  • PowerShares S&P Value Line Timeless Select Portfolio (SPHQ):This fund selects stocks from the S&P 500 that are deemed to have strong long-term growth and stable earnings.
  • UBS E-TRACS S&P 500 Gold Hedged Index (SPGH):This ETN is split 50/50 between long positions in the S&P 500 Index and gold futures contracts.
  • Morgan Stanley S&P 500 Crude Oil Linked ETN (BARL):This ETN is split 50/50 between S&P Index futures and an equal-weightedcombinationof WTI and Brent Crude Oil futures contracts.

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Disclosure: Nopositionsat time of writing.

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