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Internet ETF Rides Consumer Trends

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- SPDR S&P Retail (XRT) and First Trust Consumer Discretionary AlphaDEX (FXD) have declined 10% since mid-June as investors shun the consumer market.

This has eroded gains earned from January to April, in turn dropping 2010 returns down to nearly 0%. Instead, investors should consider an ETF with more favorable consumer exposure, the First Trust Dow Jones Internet (FDN), which is down only 4% over the same period.

Earnings season hasn't been particularly positive for the consumer sector. The large gains and positive outlooks have mostly stemmed from international and business spending. Intel (INTC) reported its best quarterly earnings in company history thanks to businesses making long delayed capital investments.

Marriott (MAR) reported solid earnings as business and leisure travelers come back in North America, although it was business travelers providing the boost.

According to the president and COO of Marriott, leisure travel has not picked up as much as business travel, and since the summer season tends to be heavy on vacations, the next quarter will be challenging. While this doesn't detract from Marriott's strong report, it does illuminate weakness in the consumer sector.

Yum Brands (YUM) delivered a similar story, with concerns about U.S. unemployment and cautious consumerism. It too reported good results, but rising wages in China added to concerns about domestic consumption, which led investors to punish the stock.

Some better performing stocks report earnings later this week, notably Netflix (NFLX) and Amazon (AMZN). These companies are doing well by catering to the portion of the consumer market that is performing well -- discount.

Meanwhile, discount retailers such as Dollar Tree (DLTR), Dollar General (DG) and Wal-Mart (WMT)have been outperforming the retail group as consumers batten the hatches and restrict discretionary spending.

Curiously, companies such as Amazon and Netflix don't spring to mind when consumers think of discount. However, these corporations benefit from changing consumption patterns and often compete on price.

For Amazon, consumers turn to online comparison shopping as a means to save money; as more consumers migrate online, more sales will take place electronically. Even with little growth in total consumption, online retailers are likely to see growing sales.

Stock quotes in this article: XRT, FXD, FDN 

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