Sector ETFs to Watch in This Earnings Season

The healthcare sector could report a lower earnings growth over Q1 2016 partly due to the robust 21.4% growth in Q1 2015 earnings. Moreover, the greater scrutiny on rising drug prices, especially in an election year, have caused many drug firms to moderate or eliminate price hikes. Nevertheless, the increase healthcare enrollment in the Affordable Care Act continues to support the industry.

On the other hand, the Energy Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLE), Materials Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLB), Industrial Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLI) and Technology Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLK) may struggle.

Stovall expects the energy sector could continue to weigh on the equities market. Energy companies are expected to show a -104.8% year-over-year earnings decline in the first quarter, followed by materials -18.8%, industrials -7.4% and information technology -5.9%.

The energy sector could deliver an operating EPS loss over Q1 for the first time this century. While crude oil prices plunged over the past year, energy producers still managed to eke out positive gains in prior quarters. Stovall attributes the worsening conditions in the energy space to the lower spread between Brent and WTI oil, which hurts refiners and companies with downstream operations, and belt-tightening from producers, which puts more pressure on oil services and drillers to clash costs.

The materials space is also suffering from depressed commodity prices, but not to the same extent as energy. For instance, chemical or fertilizer producers are experiencing lower earnings growth due to lower agricultural prices.

In the industrials space, sub-sectors related to oil & gas, metals & mining or agriculture could remain weak in a depressed commodities environment.

A stronger U.S. dollar has had a negative impact on the tech sector, notably on overseas sales. SP Dow Jones Indices calculated that in 2014, the technology sector saw 59% of revenue from international sources, the most of the 10 economic sectors, compared to 48% for the overall S&P 500.