Last Friday was a brutal day for stocks with each of the three major U.S. indexes closing lower by more than 1%. That capped a brutal start to 2015 for equities that saw the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average each fall by more than 4% in January. By comparison, the Nasdaq Composite looked good with a January loss of 3%.
While there is a pervasive belief and evidence to back it up that “so goes January, so goes the year,” that does not mean investors should gloss over sector level opportunities now that February is here. The caveat is that the sector exchange traded funds that typically perform well in February are likely to surprise some investors.
Dating back to 1999, the first full year of trading for the nine sector SPDR ETFs issued by State Street Global Advisors, the currently downtrodden Energy Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLE) is historically the best performer in February. XLE, the largest equity-based energy ETF, averages a February gain of nearly 2%, according to CXO Advisory.
XLE’s propensity for strong February showings could come as some relief to wary investors. Last year, XLE was the only one of the nine SPDRs to finish the year in the red and its start to 2015 has not been encouraging with a January loss of 5.3%.
There are some signs of hope. For example, oil futures spiked 8% into the close Friday. Additionally, major energy companies are announcing significant capital spending reductions to, in part, firm up their dividends. [Possible Dividend Issues for Energy ETFs]
With Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM), XLE’s largest holding, reporting fourth-quarter results today, investors could get a quick read on what to expect from the ETF this month.