Best ETFs to Buy for Rising Inflation

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Rising prices or high inflation means that sooner or later, the U.S. Federal Reserve will swing into action to raise its fed funds rate, which will lead to an increase in interest rates. Higher interest rates slow down economic activity that tames inflation. These factors can erode corporate earnings and cause falling prices for bonds. Still, they may be a way for you to invest in exchange-traded funds that tend to perform better than others when interest rates are rising.

Key Takeaways

  • High inflation typically leads to a rising interest rate environment.
  • Interest rate ETFs are funds that may perform better than other types of investments when interest rates are rising.
  • The funds that are generally smart holdings are short-term bond ETFs, TIPS ETFs, floating-rate ETFs, growth stock ETFs, and financial sector ETFs.
  • Consider investing in iShares Short Treasury Bond ETF, iShares TIPS Bond ETF, iShares Floating Rate Bond, Vanguard Growth ETF, or Financial Select Sector SPDR.

How to Find the Best ETFs for Rising Interest Rates

There is no dedicated category of funds that profit from rising interest rates. Still, certain types of ETFs can perform better than others in a rising interest rate environment. Once you identify the types of funds to buy, you can narrow it down to the best ETFs among those types. As with other types of ETFs, it's wise to look for low expenses and high assets.

Here are the types of funds that are generally smart holdings when interest rates are rising:

  • Short-Term Bond ETFs: When interest rates are rising, bond prices are generally falling. However, some bonds are more sensitive to interest rates than others. Generally, the longer the duration of the bond, the more prices can fall when rates are rising. Therefore, short- and ultra-short-term bond ETFs are expected to perform better than intermediate– and long-term bond funds in a rising rate environment.
  • TIPS ETFs: Rising rates often coincide with rising inflation because the Federal Reserve raises its Fed Funds Rate to prevent inflation from getting too hot. However, investing in TIPS-linked ETFs is not risk-free.
  • Floating Rate ETFs: These funds invest in floating rate notes, which pay a variable interest rate, as opposed to a fixed rate like conventional bonds. This means that floating rate ETFs can hold their value in a rising interest rate environment.
  • Growth Stock ETFs: When interest rates are rising, the economy is generally in the mature stage of the business cycle, which tends to favor growth stocks. However, investors should use caution when buying growth stock ETFs in this phase because the next phase to follow is the recession, where growth stocks can see rapid declines.
  • Financial Sector ETFs: Banks that loan money to consumers can do well in rising rate environments because the spread between what they pay savers for savings accounts and what they can earn from high-quality debt, such as U.S. Treasuries widens. Like growth stocks, financial stocks can see big declines once signs of recession appear.

Best ETFs for Rising Inflation and Interest Rates

Based upon the best types of ETFs for rising interest rates, we did the homework for you and researched dozens of funds to highlight five interest rate ETFs in five different categories to consider for your portfolio.

  • iShares Short Treasury Bond ETF (SHV): This short-term bond ETF invests in U.S. Treasury bonds with maturities of less than one year. The short duration reduces interest rate risk compared to longer durations and can even produce positive returns in a rising interest rate environment. As of November 10, 2021, the ETFs have $13.3 billion in assets, and expenses are just 0.15% or $15 for every $10,000 invested.
  • iShares TIPS Bond ETF (TIP): By far the largest ETF that invests in Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, aka TIPS. As of November 10, 2021, the TIP ETF has a little over $37 billion in assets and has a low expense ratio of 0.19%.
  • iShares Floating Rate Bond (FLOT): This floating rate bond ETF offers exposure to a portfolio of bonds whose interest rate payments adjust with prevailing interest rates. As of November 10, 2021, it has $7 billion in assets and an expense ratio of 0.20%.
  • Vanguard Growth ETF (VUT): For cheap exposure to a broad range of U.S. large-company growth stocks, it's hard to beat VUT, which sports a low expense ratio of 0.04%. As of September 30, 2021, the ETF had $169.1 billion in assets.
  • Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF): For broad exposure to large-cap U.S. financial stocks involved in the banking, brokerage, and insurance industries, XLF is an outstanding choice. As of November 10, 2021, the ETF has $45.4 billion in assets, and expenses are 0.12%.

​You should keep in mind that these interest rate ETFs can still lose value, even in a rising rate environment when they are expected to perform better than other types of ETFs. It's also smart to remember that a diversified portfolio typically consists of several funds from diverse categories. Investments that concentrate in one narrow part of the market should not receive allocations higher than 10% to 20% of your portfolio.