U.S. stocks performed well in November, ensuring the eleventh month of the year lived up to its billing as the start of the best six-month cycle in which to be long equities.
With December here, several important seasonal trends could come into play. At the sector level, the obvious plays are consumer discretionary and retail exchange traded funds. With so much chatter about Black Friday, Cyber Monday and holiday shopping in general, the idea of being long ETFs such as the Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLY) or the Market Vectors Retail ETF (NYSEArca: RTH) at this time of year makes sense. [Consumer ETFs for Cyber Monday]
However, the two sector SPDRs that are traditionally the strongest in December may surprise some investors. December is a good time to be long cyclical names and not just consumer discretionary as the Materials Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLB) and the Energy Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLE) have been the two best December performers since the sector SPDRs debuted in 1998, according to CXO Advisory.
XLB is usually the best of the nine SPDRs in December followed by XLE. XLB being atop the list is not altogether surprising as it ranks as the best or second-best SPDR in three other months (February, July and November). The ETF, however, was a tad disappointing last month with a gain of just 1.53%. [Materials ETFs are November Buys]
Both XLB and XLE could use a December push to catch up with rival sector funds. Although XLB and XLE are up 20.1% and 22.7%, respectively year-to-date, only the Utilities Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLU) with a gain of 12% has been worse.
Nearly a 30% of XLB’s weight goes to Monsanto (NYSE: MON), DuPont (NYSE: DD) and Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW) while Dow components Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM) and Chevron (NYSE: CVX) combine for 30% of XLE’s weight.