The S&P 500 and other major U.S. stock benchmarks are trading near all-time highs but within ETFs, the traditionally defensive sectors such as healthcare, utilities and consumer staples have been the best performers the past few months.
Defensive sectors leading the way isn’t exactly an encouraging sign for the bulls.
SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSEArca: SPY) is up 7.8% for the trailing three months, according to investment researcher Morningstar.
However, Utilities Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLU) is up 14% to nearly double the return of the S&P 500, while Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLP) has gained 13.6% and Health Care Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLV) is up 13.7%.
“These historically more defensive groups are ripping to new highs. These sectors are the reason that U.S. stock market averages are anywhere near highs. A lot of the components of the market aren’t participating,” writes J.C. Parets at the All Star Charts blog. “We’re in a current market environment that is being driven by just a few sectors. The majority of the others have been drifting lower for four weeks.”