If you were remotely tuned into the events of our economy, you may have noticed that the fourth quarter was not our heyday. But there were sectors in the S&P 500 with corresponding exchange traded funds (ETFs) that managed to demonstrate might.

The unofficial fourth quarter earnings came in – we’re about 80% there now – and the year-over-year earnings for the S&P 500 are down 36%, according to the Bespoke Investment Group. Analysts previously expected an increase of 30% from Q4 2007 to Q4 2008.

On a sector basis, three managed to see a year-over-year increase in earnings. They are:

  • Utilities. The sector was up 6.1% in the fourth quarter. Utilities Select SPDR (XLU) is down 7.5% in the last month and down 4.9% in the last three months.

ETF XLU performance

  • Consumer Staples. The sector was up 9.6% in the 4th quarter. Consumer Staples SPDR (XLP) is down 6.9% in the last month and down 7.7% in the last three months.

ETF XLP performance

  • Health Care. The sector was up 9.9% in the fourth quarter. Health Care Select SPDR (XLV) is up 0.5% in the last month and up 4.2% in the last 3-months.

ETF XLV performance

It is estimated that the year-over-year percent change for the S&P 500 will be -31.09% for Q1 ’09, -25.4 for Q2 ’09, and -11.7% for Q3 ’09.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.