In a testament to just how strong U.S. stocks have been this year, the Consumer Staples Select SPDR (NYSE: XLP) is up 20.9% and that is only good for fourth-place among the nine sector SPDRs. The Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLY) has surged 28% year-to-date, but that does not make XLY the best SPDR, either.
Rising consumer confidence along with a declining unemployment and an overall more rosy view of the U.S. economy has helped drive XLY and rival funds higher. Dependable dividends, decent yields and conservative investors looking to wade back into stocks as U.S. equities rally have been among the catalysts driving staples stocks and ETFs to the upside. [Consumer ETFs: Staples vs. Discretionary]
The impressive performances delivered by XLP and XLY this year could be a sign that both funds are overbought and overdue for a pullback. Although XLP is the best-performing SPDR in the month of August on a historical basis, the overall performance of the staples in the eighth month of the year dating back to 1987 is mediocre with barely more August gains than losses. [Stick to Staples in August]
That does not mean investors should close their eyes to the two ETFs this month. Consumer stocks start coming back into favor in September, but back-to-school shopping season could move up the time frame in which investors should begin considering additions to XLP and XLY or new trades in those ETFs.
“Back-to-school and holiday spending combined with the effects of the Best Six Months is the most likely driving force behind this seasonality. More recently, the rising stock market and continued housing and labor market gains (although somewhat sluggish) have given the sector a boost,” according to The Stock Trader’s Almanac.