Financial stocks have been sliding over the last several weeks, but these companies remain comfortably in the lead for the trailing one-year return among US sectors, based on a set of proxy ETFs through Apr. 17.
Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF) is ahead by a strong 27.6% for the 12 months through Apr. 17, moderately above the number-two sector performance of 21.3% for Technology Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLK). But in a sign of what may be a leadership transition in progress, XLK has posted firmer performance in recent weeks compared with XLF.
Some analysts say that slowing loan growth is a sign that financials are facing new headwinds. “The US bank rally, which to my mind was well-deserved, that rally has run its course,” Peter Cecchini, chief market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald, said last week. “Whereas we were bullish on banks late last year, we think that trade has largely played.”
Although all the US sectors are in the black for the trailing-12-month period, there’s a wide range of results. Wallowing in last place: Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP), which is currently posting a 6.8% total return for the past year. Note, however, that XLP (in contrast with financials) has held its ground over the past month, which may be a sign that the appetite for defensive stocks is reviving.
Meantime, the broad market is still posting a solid return for the past year. SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) is up 15.2% over the past 12 months—a healthy premium over the market’s long-term performance.
Although financials continue to lead the sector field for one-year results, the latest setback for XLF is clearly visible in the next chart below (black line at top), which shows relative performances for the past 12 months.
Another sign that financials’ leadership may be fading: XLF’s price has fallen below its 50-day average by the widest margin among the sector funds.
For additional research on the sector ETFs cited above, here are links to the summary pages at Morningstar.com: