Most investors would rather go to the dentist than take a look at their portfolios this year. 2022 has been a tough year for investors with both the equity and the fixed-income markets experiencing large drawdowns. Unless you’ve been all in on commodities this year, your portfolio has likely taken a hit.
This has been especially true for investors with large exposure to technology stocks. The Technology Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLK), which tracks the technology sector, is down 28% through October 21st. Out of the eleven SPDR Sector ETFs, only the Real Estate Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLRE) and the Communication Services Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLC) are down more.
But who could blame an investor for a large technology allocation, especially with the way tech stocks had been performing over the last five years? Even during the last major selloff at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, the technology sector held up better than most sectors. However, this year, tech stocks have been anything but strong performers.
It’s not just technology either, all sector leadership has changed considerably over the past twelve months. At the end of the third quarter last year, consumer cyclicals, technology, and financials, ranked first, second, and third in the DALI sector rankings, while utilities, energy, and consumer staples ranked in the bottom three.
Fast forward to the third quarter this year, and energy, consumer staples, and utilities held the top spots, while technology, consumer cyclicals, and financials ranked in the eighth, tenth, and fourth spots.
Looking at the period between September 30, 2021, and September 30, 2022, a hypothetical equal-weighted portfolio consisting of the top sectors in Q3 2021, the Technology Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLK), the Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLY), and the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLF) would have lost 20.06%, underperforming the S&P 500 by almost 3.5%.
But an equal-weighted portfolio made up of the top sectors in Q3 2022, including the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE), the Utilities Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLU), and the Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLP) would have gained 12.58% over the same period, outperforming the S&P 500 by more than 29% and the previous portfolio by 30%.
That hypothetical difference of 30% reflects the cost of assuming that top sectors will remain at the top consistently. If instead, an investor followed a relative strength model and rotated with the market leaders, he or she would have likely been able to avoid those losses.
2022 is also notable as there is a nearly 80% year-to-date differential between the top-performing sector, the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE), and the bottom-performing sector, the Communication Services Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLC), indicating that there is, even more, to be gained this year by picking the top sector and avoiding the worst.
The change in leadership and the large differential this year provides a useful reminder that long-term sector trends such as technology can change quickly and investors would benefit from the use of relative strength.
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