ETF Trends
ETF Trends

Consumer discretionary sector and related exchange traded funds could be shaking off the winter slowdown as warmer weather and rising consumer confidence help free up Americans’ wallets.

Year-to-date, the Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLY) rose 5.3%, First Trust Consumer Discretionary AlphaDEX Fund (NYSEArca: FXD) gained 4.8% and Vanguard Consumer Discretionary ETF (NYSEArca: VCR) increased 5.2%. [Deflationary Pressures to Support Consumers, Retail ETFs]

Economists argue that warming temperatures, confident consumers and improved housing market will support growth and further hiring after another frigid winter stifled growth in the first three months, reports Rich Miller for Bloomberg. [The Stars Align for Homebuilder ETFs]

“There’s going to be a bounce-back in the second quarter,” Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at consultants IHS Inc., said in the Bloomberg article. “The consumer is going to drive growth.”

According to a Bloomberg survey, economists believe that the unusually harsh winter storms cut 0.5 percentage points from growth and restrained hiring in March. Nevertheless, the economists also project a swift rebound in the second quarter, similar to what occurred in 2014.

For instance, some early signs are promising, such as a bounce in automobile sales to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 17.2 million in March, the fastest in four months, after the winter slowdown. The automobile sector makes up 5.4% of XLY, 2.3% of FXD and 11.2% of VCR.

Looking ahead, economists anticipate that consumers, which make up about two-thirds of gross domestic product, could soon dip into their savings after savings rates rose to 5.8% in February, the highest since December 2012, especially with consumer confidence on the rise. The Bloomberg index of consumer sentiment was at 46.2 as of March 29, its strongest end to a quarter since Q2 2007.

“Consumer spending is starting to look more and more like a coiled spring, and we could definitely see it pick up,” Guy Berger, U.S. economist at RBS Securities Inc., said in the article.

Institutional investors are already positioning for further strength in the discretionary sector ahead, reports Amanda Diaz for CNBC.

“There’s been some strong institutional order flow,” Andrew Keene, founder of Keene on the Market, said on CNBC, referring to activity in XLY. “We saw an institution targeting those June 80-strike calls.”

There were 50,000 June 80-strike calls bought for 37 cents each, which comes in at about a $1.8 million bet that XLY would trade above $80.37, a new all-time high, by the June expiration. XLY is currently hovering around $76.3.

Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR

For more information on the consumer sector, visit our consumer discretionary category.

Max Chen contributed to this article.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.