NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The transports fumbled through the second half of 2011 as macroeconomic headwinds weighed heavily on global growth prospects. In the New Year, however, this slice of the industrials sector appears to have gathered some steam.In the opening month of 2012, shares of the iShares Dow Jones Transportation Average Index Fund ( IYT) have risen 6% year to date, nearly double the broader SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average Index ETF ( DIA). IYT's performance has been impressive and encouraging, an given its historical performance, the party my not be over just yet. While February is traditionally a tricky time for U.S. stocks, transports have historically held up well compared to the benchmark S&P 500 index. In addition, top industry representatives are also painting a promising picture for IYT.
IYT depends heavily on the performance of UPS and FedEx, which represent the bulk of the fund's delivery service-related exposure. Finally, J.B. Hunt Transport Services ( JBHT) set an encouraging precedent for the trucking industry when it announced that its third quarter earnings surpassed analyst expections. JBHT and other trucking players account for an additional 20% of IYT's index. With major slices of its index showing promise, IYT could be on track to capitalize on its early year gains. Investors looking to take on exposure to this industry should keep exposure small, however. As was the case in 2011, the transportation industry will be heavily influenced by overall market sentiment. In the event that fears are rekindled and growth-related doubts resurface, the fund could find itself on a rocky road. Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.