Consumer discretionary stocks have strengthened their lead among the major US equity sectors this month, based on trailing one-year total return data for a set of ETF proxies. After bumping healthcare shares from the top spot recently, the Consumer Discretionary SPDR ETF (NYSEArca: XLY) has widened its performance edge over the rest of the field in October.

XLY, which holds consumer-focused stocks such as Amazon and Walt Disney, has posted a 20% total return for the trailing one-year period (252 trading days) through yesterday (Oct. 20). That’s a solid premium over the 12.5% one-year gain for the number-two fund: the Consumer Staples SPDR ETF (NYSEArca: XLP), which targets consumer stocks that are considered less cyclically sensitive, such as firms focused on food and household products. For comparison, the US equity market overall is up around 6% for the past year, based on the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY).

With the holiday shopping season approaching, some analysts think that consumer shares generally will continue to lead the pack. “I think the consumer continues to see momentum,” Jeff Kilburg at KKM Financial told CNBC earlier this week.

Meanwhile, the dogs are still the dogs when comparing the sector ETFs. Energy and basic materials continue to wallow at the tail end of the performance horse race for the trailing one-year period. The slide is particularly steep for energy shares: the Energy SPDR ETF (NYSEArca: XLE) is still dead last, cut by nearly 20% over the past 12 months.

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