Tricks for navigating volatility as Caterpillar sounds global growth alarm

Caterpillar is sounding the alarm on the global economy.

The industrial giant posted disappointing quarterly earnings and gave weak guidance on Monday, a canary-in-the-coal-mine moment for investors worried about global economic growth. The bellwether company sources 60 percent of its revenue from outside of the United States.

Kevin O'Leary, co-founder of O'Leary Funds and co-host of "Shark Tank," says this will not be isolated to just Caterpillar.

"The numbers don't lie. We've got a slowdown going here," O'Leary said on CNBC's "ETF Edge" on Monday. "The order cycle for CAT is multi-quarters so this has been happening, it's been stewing in the back end of last year, now it's manifesting itself in this quarter. This does not bode well for the S&P earnings growth."

S&P 500 profits are expected to grow by 6 percent in 2019, according to FactSet estimates, much slower than the 22 percent growth last year.

Some ETFs could be the best place to hide to outlast major swings in volatility this year. O'Leary's picks include Goldman Sachs ActiveBeta U.S. large-cap equity ETF (GSLC), iShares Edge MSCI USA Quality Factor ETF (QUAL) and his own O'Shares FTSE US Quality Dividend ETF (OUSA).

"We're dissecting the S&P 500 to find the better names to sit in the weeds during periods like this and own stocks with good balance sheets and high cash flows," he said.

The GSLC ETF holds Microsoft, Amazon and Alphabet, the QUAL ETF's top holdings include Alphabet, Apple and Facebook, and the OUSA ETF includes Cisco, AT&T and Intel.

Dave Nadig, managing director of ETF.com, prefers the First Trust industrials ETF (FXR), which has outperformed the market this year.

"You limit your exposure to any one name there to about 2 percent. I think Caterpillar is sitting at about 1.5 percent in this portfolio," Nadig said on "ETF Edge" on Monday. "That goes a long way toward giving you the exposure on the upside but minimizing your risk on a day like [Monday]."

The FXR ETF's top holdings include Boeing, Union Pacific and Honeywell. It has risen 9 percent this month, better than the S&P 500's 5 percent advance.

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to "Shark Tank."