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Consumer Discretionary ETFs Are Struggling to Keep Up

Stocks in this article: XLY IYC XLE XLF XLV

Wednesday's economic data offered more than a glimmer of hope for the recession-weary. According to ADP's monthly survey, private payrolls increased by a staggering 300,000 new jobs. The number tripled economists' expectations and it represented the largest single-month booster shot since the survey began back in 2000.

Of course, the ADP survey rarely comes close to emulating the U.S. government's official stats. In November, ADP reported 92,000 new jobs whereas the U.S. government logged just 39,000. What's more, a single month's data point rarely reflects the broader trend.

There's little doubt, however, that job growth has accelerated. And while some of the credit may go to a willingness of corporations to open their wallets, a large portion of the credit must also go to the outcome of the congressional elections in early November. Not only did the Republican victories solidify the likelihood of tax cut extensions, but they helped persuade business leaders that a new era of pro-business sentiment was on the way.

Think this isn't the case? Investors do.

The current perception that government gridlock will end big government legislation (e.g., FINREG financial regulation) as well as White House energy intervention (e.g., drilling moratorium) lifted SPDR Select Energy (XLE) as well as SPDR Select Financials (XLF) out of the doghouse. In fact, both areas finished in the top half of 1-month sector performers.

Actually, Sector ETF performance has approximated the results that we've come to expect in a broad-based, "risk-is-hip" rally ... with one noteworthy exception. Consumer stocks have been underachieving.

Why would consumer purchasing come into question when hiring is apparently accelerating? Indeed, it stands to reason that consumer spending would pick up when jobs are just around the corner.

Do investors doubt the post-holiday spending power of consumers? Is home price depreciation still weighing on the minds of investors and consumers alike? Or is this merely rotation from former standouts such as Consumer Discretionary (XLY) into previously unloved Health Care (XLV) and/or Financials (XLF)?

Perhaps there's more at "work" here ... much more than the possibility of a country's citizens getting back into the workforce.

The country will need to hire 2,000,000 or more people before year-end ... just to put the smallest dent in current unemployment levels. This may be the reality that is causing SPDR Select Consumer Discretionary and iShares DJ Consumer Services (IYC) to lag.

You can listen to the ETF Expert Radio Show "LIVE", via podcast or on your iPod. You can review more ETF Expert features here .

Disclosure Statement: ETF Expert is a website that makes the world of ETFs easier to understand. Gary Gordon, Pacific Park Financial and/or its clients may hold positions in ETFs, mutual funds and investment assets mentioned. The commentary does not constitute individualized investment advice. The opinions offered are not personalized recommendations to buy, sell or hold securities. At times, issuers of exchange-traded products compensate Pacific Park Financial or its subsidiaries for advertising at the ETF Expert website. ETF Expert content is created independently of any advertising relationships. You may review additional ETF Expert at the site.

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