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A Look Back At the S&P 500 Sector ETFs in 2020

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We have now reached the last leg of 2020 and it’s been a tricky year so far for Wall Street. The first-half was horribly volatile thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak with the second half recouping losses and helping the S&P 500 log decent returns.

The key U.S. index S&P 500 has added as much as 13.8% this year (as of Dec 11, 2020). Key events of this year were the coronavirus-led lockdowns, Fed’s crisis-era policy launch, global monetary and fiscal policy easing, Biden’s U.S. presidential election win, a divided-Congress in the United States and the gradual rollout of COVID-19 vaccination in December.

No wonder, investors would be interested in knowing how each sector of the S&P 500 has performed this year. Below we highlight their performance.

Technology: Weight 25.7% -- Technology Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLK - Free Report) – Up 35.9% YTD

The technology corner of the broad U.S. stock market has been a clear winner this year due to stay-at-home mandates which promoted work-learn-shop-from-home. The emergence of cutting-edge technology has made this possible. This went in favor of technology ETFs like XLK.

Consumer Discretionary: Weight 10.5% -- Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLY - Free Report) – Up 24.6%

This sector has recorded a solid uptrend this year. Low rates, cheap oil, and pent-up demand after the easing of lockdown, and soaring stock markets in the second half have resulted in solid gains for discretionary stocks.

Communication Services: Weight 10.8% -- Communication Services Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLC - Free Report) – Up 24.8%

This fund invests about 21.5% of its weight in Facebook (up 33.3% YTD) and 24% in Alphabet (32.0%).  Other stocks like Activision Blizzard (40.8%) and Netflix (55.5%) have also delivered solid returns and driven the fund in 2020.

Materials: Weight 2.5% -- Materials Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLB - Free Report) – Up 15.4%

Though cost pressure has been a drag on the space, broader risk-on trade sentiments in the second half of 2020 have lent a hand to the materials sector.

Health Care: Weight 15.4% -- Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLV - Free Report) – Up 9.6%

Decent earnings, solid drug data, healthy flow of FDA approvals, and a solid merger & acquisition and IPO environment have been driving the sector in recent months. COVID-19 related research on vaccine and medication as well as studies on genomics have been aiding the space.

Industrials: Weight 7.9% -- Industrial Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLI - Free Report) – UP 8.9%

Though the sector suffered a lot at the start of the pandemic, the reopening of global economies has again brought the sector back on track.

Consumer Staples: Weight 7.4% -- Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLP - Free Report) – Up 6.9%

Being defensive in nature, the consumer staples sector has benefited from the pandemic this year. This sector also performs well in a low-rate environment. Demand for essential items kept the sector alive even amid lockdown.

Utilities: Weight 3.3% -- Utilities Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLU - Free Report) – Down 3.7%

Despite being a safe sector, utilities have underperformed this year. Many capital-intensive projects like the implementation of the energy efficiency programs in residential and commercial buildings and industrial plants have probably been put on hold. Economic stress has weighed high on the utilities space.

Real Estate: Weight 2.9% -- The Real Estate Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLRE - Free Report) – Down 6.2%

The real estate sector has been suffering since the start of the pandemic. U.S. unemployment benefit claims remained sky-high during the pandemic. Such status of employment had a negative impact on the real estate markets as tenants fail to make timely rental payments.

Financials: Weight 10.6% -- Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLF - Free Report) – Down 7.5%

This sector has suffered a lot amid the pandemic as corporate and household cash crunch has raised fear for defaults. An energy market rout and a low interest rate environment also led to the underperformance of financial stocks. Though losses were recouped to some extent in the fourth quarter, YTD performance remains in the red.

Energy: Weight 3.0% -- Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLE - Free Report) – Down 31.5%

Energy stocks are clear underperformers despite the OPEC output cut. A COVID-19-induced sharp decline in demand has played spoilsport here. However, the vaccine rally in November provided a great support in recovering some of the earlier months’ losses.

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