(Adds the Citigroup Economic Surprise Index.)
BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- If you think U.S. stocks' 14% leap from the beginning of October will spill into next year, which industries might post the biggest gains?
More than six decades of stock market history reveals a pattern of certain sectors leading rebounds after economic slumps, such as the kind we've been mired in since the second half of this year.
S&P Capital IQ says such a resurgence is under way, even though stocks are slumping today. The research firm raised its 2012 price target for the S&P 500 Index to 1,400 from 1,360 (it's now at 1,255), "reflecting a continued improvement in U.S. economic data and the belief that this correction concluded with the S&P 500's early October low near 1,100."Europe's debt crisis is showing signs of easing, and the consumer-led U.S. economy is getting stronger. A gauge of U.S. consumer confidence last week rose to a six-month high and online holiday sales surged 15% to almost $25 billion from last year. So-called Green Monday, today, is expected to be the heaviest online buying day of the year. The Citigroup Economic Surprise Index, a measure of whether economic data is better or worse than economists' forecasts, rose to a nine-month high Dec. 2 after an unexpected drop in the unemployment rate. "The worst may actually be over," said Sam Stovall, S&P Capital IQ's chief equity strategist. Still, Europe is creating volatility in the U.S. as its leaders can't agree on measures to relieve the sovereign debt meltdown. Moody's Investors Service is reviewing the ratings of European Union countries, which dragged down stocks in Europe and the U.S. today. Stovall's research says four industries tend to lead the market after bear markets, defined as a 20% drop over at least two months, or "baby bear" markets, those that are just short of the "bear" criteria. They are consumer discretionary stocks, which outperformed the broader market 100% of the time, with an average gain of 29.5% within six months of the market bottom; followed by information technology, 80% of the time, with an average increase of 30%; industrials, 80% of the time, with a 26% advance; and materials, 80% of the time, with a 24.8% gain. The following are eight S&P five-star "strong buy" rated stocks -- the best -- two from each of the best-performing rebound sectors, with the highest price-appreciation potential over the next 12 months: