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Market-Beating Sector ETFs Year to Date

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The year 2019 has been all about peaks and troughs in U.S.-China trade tensions, global growth slowdown and global policy easing. The upshot is at least 19% gains in the key U.S. equity gauges.

SPDRS&P 500 ETF SPY has added about 23.6% so far this year while Invesco QQQ Trust (QQQ) has gained 30.2% and SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF (DIA - Free Report) has advanced 19%. All-world ETF iShares MSCI ACWI ETF ACWI is up 19.8%. While many corners of the market have made solid gains, some sectors delivered even stronger performance.

Below we highlight those winners.


Occasional hopes of a U.S.-China trade deal, a 5G boom and rising consumer spending on technology have propelled the sector. Expectations of higher smartphone sales have given an added boost. IDC expects the smartphone market to record 1.6% growth in 2020, after three straight years of global contraction. Gartner too expects smartphone sales to grow again in 2020 after a decline in 2019, thanks to “broader availability of 5G models and the promotion of 5G service packages in various parts of the world by communications service providers."

SPDR S&P Semiconductor ETF XSD (up 55.1%), First Trust Nasdaq Semiconductor ETF FTXL (up 52.4%), VanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETF SMH (up 52.3%) and iShares PHLX Semiconductor ETF SOXX (51.7%) have proven to be the clear winners (read: Time to Buy the Dip in Semiconductor ETFs?).

Clean Energy

Clean energy ETFs have ridden higher this year. This has happened despite President Trump’s inclination toward booting fossil-fuel energy. Going by an International Energy Agency (IEA) report, worldwide supplies of renewable electricity are expected to expand 50% in the next five years.

A transition toward 100% clean electricity is going on in the United States. China is a major player building a green environment. Almost half of the European Union’s (EU) 28 member states have already reached or are about to touch their 2020 renewable energy targets(read: Top-Performing Alternative Energy ETFs YTD).

Invesco Solar ETF TAN (up 50.6%), Invesco Exchange-Traded Fund Trust - Invesco WilderHill Clean Energy ETF PBW (up 44.6%) and ALPS Clean Energy ETF ACES (up 41.5%) are some of the ETFs that have added solid gains.

Home Building

Low mortgage rates have worked wonder for housing stocks this year. With the Fed being dovish, this rate-sensitive sector has every reason to outperform. iShares U.S. Home Construction ETF (ITB) (up 49.9%), Invesco Dynamic Building & Construction ETF PKB (up 42.4%) and SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF XHB (up 41.7%) are the top-performing homebuilding ETFs (read: Here's Why Homebuilding ETFs Are Soaring).

Aerospace & Defense

President Donald Trump’s repeated pitch for a higher defense budget, rising geopolitical risks and higher commercial demand are giving a boost to defense companies. Invesco Aerospace & Defense ETF PPA (up 41.2%) and SPDR S&P Aerospace & Defense ETF XAR (up 41.1%) deserve a mention.

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