Whiplash: It’s one of the occupational hazards of my job.  As a team that’s tasked with analyzing exchange traded product (ETP) flows, my colleagues and I spend a lot of time sorting through data in an effort to identify investment trends.

But, as you can probably imagine, sometimes these trends can turn on a dime – making it difficult to differentiate between short-term “moods” and long-term “movements.”

Sector ETP flows are usually a good example of this, since sector investors tend to be a more tactical group to begin with. [An ETF for Dividends and the Cyclical Rotation]

But the recent shift away from defensive sector funds and into cyclical ones has been significant enough to give us pause.  Classic defensive sectors like healthcare, utilities and consumer staples  – year-to-date leaders in sector ETP flows – have all seen a downward trend so far in May, bringing the whole defensive category down with them.

Meanwhile, cyclical sectors like financials and basic materials saw a brief downturn in April before making a strong recovery in May (see below).