It’s been a year of trading places for performance outliers in the US equity sector space. The formerly high-flying tech sector is now the laggard while energy stocks continue to hold the lead, based on a set of ETFs through May 11.
Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE) continues to lead the major US sector field by a wide margin. As of yesterday’s close, the fund’s up 39.3%. That’s a hefty premium over the next-best performer — Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF), which is ahead by 26.4% year to date.
The combination of improving expectations for the US economic outlook and hotter inflation has lifted energy stocks sharply this year.
By contrast, tech stocks – big-tech in particular – is struggling in 2021. Technology Select Sector SPDR (XLK) is the weakest sector performer so far this year. The fund is up a relatively mild 4.1%.
The contrast with energy (XLE) year to date is stark, reflecting a roughly 35-percent-point gap.
Analysts cite a number of factors in tech’s reversal of fortunes, including payback after a monster rally from the depths of the pandemic last year. As the world increasingly favored all things internet-related, many tech stocks enjoyed outsized gains while old economy stocks suffered. But as the worst of the pandemic recedes, these trends have reversed.
“There have been five headwinds for tech that feel like they’re coming to a head,” Tom Lee, head of research at Fundstrat Global Advisors, told CNBC this week. “One of the overarching problems with tech starting this year is it’s a crowded and stale long.”
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