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Visualizing S&P Performance in 2020, By Sector

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Visualizing S&P Performance in 2020, By Sector

With 2020 finally over, many are breathing a sigh of relief.

Investors faced a tumultuous year. Still, the S&P 500 finished strong with a 16% gain, outpacing its decade-long average by 4%. Many sectors that provided the new essentials—like online products, communication software and home materials—outperformed the market. It was, of course, a challenging year for other sectors including energy.

This Markets in a Minute graphic from New York Life Investments ranks the 2020 performance of every sector in the S&P 500 using data from S&P Global.

S&P Performance By Sector

As the world coped with devastating losses and uncertainty, how resilient were S&P 500 sectors?

Here’s how every sector performed, from top to bottom.

S&P 500 Sector2020 Price Return2019 Price Return10-Year Annualized ReturnsP/E (Trailing)*
Information Technology42.2%48.0%18.9%31.6
Consumer Discretionary32.1%26.2%16.0%48.1
Communication Services22.2%30.9%5.6%27.5
Materials18.1%21.9%6.6%40.4
Health Care11.4%18.7%13.8%25.3
Industrials9.0%26.8%9.6%28.9
Consumer Staples7.6%24.0%8.7%25.1
Utilities-2.8%22.2%7.2%21.1
Financials-4.1%29.2%8.6%15.3
Real Estate-5.2%24.9%6.6%36.3
Energy-37.3%7.6%-5.6%N/A
S&P 50016.3%28.9%11.6%31.2

*Trailing P/E measures market value divided by the last 12 months of earnings

As no surprise, technology came out on top with over 42% returns for the year.

COVID-19’s economic impact benefited the sector as activities, from work to socializing, moved online. In 2020, the tech sector’s returns were more than double its 18.9% average over the last decade.

Consumer discretionary was also one of 2020’s top sectors. Home to online marketplace giants along with electric vehicle companies, it posted a 32.1% return—surpassing its 2019 gains.

With -37.3% returns, energy was the hardest hit of all. Historic demand disruptions, along with OPEC tensions led to sector weakness. Like energy, real estate had a difficult year. Still, after declining 40% in March, by year-end, the sector mostly rebounded with just 5% losses.

Why The Market Had a Strong Year

Looking back, one of the biggest questions baffling investors is: why did the market perform so well? A number of factors, including government stimulus, low interest rates, and vaccine expectations can all help explain some of its behavior.

Government Stimulus

In March, the U.S. government approved a $2.2 trillion CARES-Act relief package, breaking historical records for stimulus. This helped create optimism in the market as individuals, small-businesses and corporations received financial relief.

At the same time, the Federal Reserve extended its “quantitative easing” policies that it introduced in 2008. Quantitative easing is when the central bank buys a number of longer-term securities. This type of measure is designed to boost economic activity through injecting liquidity into the market.

In 2020, the Federal Reserve began purchasing corporate bonds and other assets—on top of treasuries and mortgage-backed securities (MBS)—for the first time ever. In fact, the Federal Reserve is now estimated to 34% of MBS in the U.S. to help protect American homeowners.

Low Interest Rates

Another force that may have contributed to S&P performance in 2020 was the Federal Reserve’s low-interest rate policy.

Low interest rates mean that borrowing costs are low, which can be favorable for business conditions. In September, the Federal Reserve announced a “lower for longer policy”, stating that it won’t raise rates until 2023.

Vaccine Expectations

The promise of a vaccine rollout has contributed to S&P 500 performance momentum, along with expectations that things could return to normal in 2021. It also corresponded with double-digit gains for the health care sector.

Though roadblocks and uncertainties remain, vaccine announcements in November also helped spur an uptick in the energy sector, which will be influenced by global vaccine efforts in the months ahead. This, in turn, will help travel resume to normal and spark oil & gas demand.

S&P Performance: What Comes Next in 2021

With the first year of the pandemic behind us, it’s hard to say how the story will continue.

As countries acquire vaccines, there is hope for S&P 500 performance, and future stimulus measures could prop up the stock market. Of course, both the containment of the virus and people feeling safe will have an outsized impact on S&P sectors in the shift to a post-pandemic world.

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Markets in a Minute

How Do Countries Around the World Compensate for Equity Risk?

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Equity Risk Premiums

How Do Countries Compensate Investors for Equity Risk?

When investors purchase stocks internationally, they are exposed to additional risks. Companies may have higher volatility based on a country’s economic, political, and legal conditions. In exchange for taking on the additional risk, investors demand a higher return potential, known as an equity risk premium.

Which countries have the highest premiums? In this Markets in a Minute from New York Life Investments, we explore equity risk premiums for countries around the world.

Behind the Numbers

The premiums are based on a study by a New York University researcher, Aswath Damodaran. All data is as of July 1, 2020.

Here are the steps Damodaran took to determine a country’s equity risk premium:

StepExample - Brazil
1. Find a country’s credit (bond) risk rating.Credit risk rating: Ba2
2. Based on that rating, determine the credit spread, which is the additional yield over a risk-free investment.Credit spread for Ba2 rating = 3.53%
3. To account for the additional risk stocks carry over bonds, multiply the credit spread by the relative equity market volatility.

This is the country risk premium.
3.53% credit spread x 1.25 relative equity market volatility

= 4.41% country risk premium
4. Add the country risk premium to the mature market risk premium (obtained by using the S&P 500 risk premium).4.41% country risk premium + 5.23% mature market risk premium
5. The resulting value is the country equity risk premium.9.64% country equity risk premium

Premiums will shift over time as a country’s credit rating, credit spread, and equity market volatility changes.

Equity Risk Premiums by Country

Below, we look at how equity risk premiums break down for 177 countries and regions, organized from highest to lowest.

CountryEquity Risk Premium
Sudan27.14%
Venezuela27.14%
Yemen, Republic27.14%
Algeria22.86%
Argentina22.86%
Guinea22.86%
Haiti22.86%
Korea, D.P.R.22.86%
Lebanon22.86%
Liberia22.86%
Somalia22.86%
Syria22.86%
Zambia22.86%
Zimbabwe22.86%
Ecuador19.92%
Congo (Republic of)18.46%
Cuba18.46%
Iran18.46%
Libya18.46%
Malawi18.46%
Mozambique18.46%
Sierra Leone18.46%
Barbados16.25%
Belize16.25%
Congo (Democratic Republic of)16.25%
Gabon16.25%
Guinea-Bissau16.25%
Iraq16.25%
Angola14.79%
Belarus14.79%
Bosnia and Herzegovina14.79%
El Salvador14.79%
Gambia14.79%
Ghana14.79%
Madagascar14.79%
Maldives14.79%
Mali14.79%
Moldova14.79%
Mongolia14.79%
Myanmar14.79%
Nicaragua14.79%
Niger14.79%
Pakistan14.79%
Solomon Islands14.79%
St. Vincent & the Grenadines14.79%
Suriname14.79%
Tajikistan14.79%
Togo14.79%
Ukraine14.79%
Bahrain13.32%
Benin13.32%
Burkina Faso13.32%
Cambodia13.32%
Cameroon13.32%
Cape Verde13.32%
Costa Rica13.32%
Egypt13.32%
Ethiopia13.32%
Guyana13.32%
Jamaica13.32%
Kenya13.32%
Kyrgyzstan13.32%
Nigeria13.32%
Papua New Guinea13.32%
Rwanda13.32%
Sri Lanka13.32%
Swaziland13.32%
Tunisia13.32%
Uganda13.32%
Albania11.84%
Bolivia11.84%
Cook Islands11.84%
Greece11.84%
Honduras11.84%
Jordan11.84%
Montenegro11.84%
Tanzania11.84%
Turkey11.84%
Uzbekistan11.84%
Armenia10.52%
Bangladesh10.52%
Côte d'Ivoire10.52%
Dominican Republic10.52%
Fiji10.52%
Macedonia10.52%
Oman10.52%
Senegal10.52%
Serbia10.52%
Vietnam10.52%
Azerbaijan9.64%
Bahamas9.64%
Brazil9.64%
Croatia9.64%
Cyprus9.64%
Georgia9.64%
Namibia9.64%
Guatemala8.90%
Morocco8.90%
Paraguay8.90%
South Africa8.90%
Trinidad and Tobago8.90%
Hungary8.46%
India8.46%
Italy8.46%
Kazakhstan8.46%
Montserrat8.46%
Portugal8.46%
Romania8.46%
Russia8.46%
St. Maarten8.46%
Andorra (Principality of)8.03%
Bulgaria8.03%
Colombia8.03%
Curacao8.03%
Indonesia8.03%
Philippines8.03%
Sharjah8.03%
Uruguay8.03%
Aruba7.58%
Mauritius7.58%
Mexico7.58%
Panama7.58%
Slovenia7.58%
Spain7.58%
Thailand7.58%
Turks and Caicos Islands7.58%
Laos6.99%
Latvia6.99%
Lithuania6.99%
Malaysia6.99%
Peru6.99%
Bermuda6.48%
Botswana6.48%
Brunei6.48%
Iceland6.48%
Ireland6.48%
Malta6.48%
Poland6.48%
Ras Al Khaimah (Emirate of)6.48%
Slovakia6.48%
Chile6.26%
China6.26%
Estonia6.26%
Israel6.26%
Japan6.26%
Saudi Arabia6.26%
Belgium6.12%
Cayman Islands6.12%
Czech Republic6.12%
Guernsey (States of)6.12%
Hong Kong6.12%
Jersey (States of)6.12%
Macao6.12%
Qatar6.12%
Taiwan6.12%
Abu Dhabi5.96%
France5.96%
Isle of Man5.96%
Korea5.96%
Kuwait5.96%
United Arab Emirates5.96%
United Kingdom5.96%
Austria5.81%
Finland5.81%
Australia5.23%
Canada5.23%
Denmark5.23%
Germany5.23%
Liechtenstein5.23%
Luxembourg5.23%
Netherlands5.23%
New Zealand5.23%
Norway5.23%
Singapore5.23%
Sweden5.23%
Switzerland5.23%
United States5.23%

Venezuela, Sudan, and Yemen are tied for the highest equity risk premium. While Venezuela battles hyperinflation, Yemen is suffering from a humanitarian crisis and Sudan has high perceived corruption.

In the mid-range, emerging countries such as Brazil, South Africa, and India carry moderate risk. However, they may also provide investors with higher returns than can be expected in mature markets.

On the low end of the scale, countries such as the United States, Singapore, and Germany have AAA credit ratings and the lowest premium of 5.23%.

Applying Risk Premiums to Companies

How can investors determine the equity risk premiums for individual companies?

One method is to assume that all companies incorporated in a country have equal exposure to that country’s risk. However, this is a simplified approach and does not account for the fact that a company’s operations may extend into other markets.

Alternatively, investors can calculate a weighted-average premium based on the location of a company’s revenue or production. For example, a consumer products business may weigh exposure based on the location of their revenue. An oil and gas company, where true risk lies in their reserves rather than where they sell, may instead be weighted by production.

Here’s a hypothetical example for an oil & gas company that has reserves in the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela:

CountryProduction (in kboed)*% of TotalEquity Risk Premium
Total300100%14.41%
U.S.6020%5.23%
Saudi Arabia12040%6.26%
Venezuela12040%27.14%

* Kilobarrels of oil equivalent per day.

The weighted-average equity risk premium is 14.41%.

Importantly, even countries headquartered in mature markets have international risks if they carry out operations in other countries.

Risk Vs. Potential Reward

Every country presents varying degrees of risk based on local conditions. As investors look to diversify internationally, it’s critical to consider two factors:

  • The additional risk
  • The potential additional return

Equity risk premiums serve as a guide that can help investors compare country risk, and the additional return potential they should expect for tolerating that risk.

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Markets in a Minute

Which ESG Risks Are Affecting Your Portfolio?

It’s important for investors to identify which sustainability issues they’re most exposed to. Find out more in this breakdown of ESG risk by industry.

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Visualizing ESG Risk by Industry

Aging populations, climate change, and data security are some of the world’s most pressing issues, but what theme do they all share? For investors, the answer is certain: sustainability.

Sustainability is a concept that’s quickly moved into the mainstream, and is best described as the consideration of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors when analyzing companies. Combining these non-financial metrics with traditional analysis has been proven to have a positive influence on long-term returns.

In this Markets in a Minute chart from New York Life Investments, we’ve mapped the ESG risk profiles of four prominent industries to gain a better understanding of the sustainability issues they’re likely facing.

Fossil Fuels

Investors in this sector have substantial exposure to all three ESG risks, with environmental issues being the most significant.

RiskImportanceIssues to Consider

Environmental

High
  • The global transition to green energy
  • Stricter environmental regulations
  • Harm from spills and other accidents

Social

Medium
  • Strained community relations
  • Shifting consumer attitudes

Governance

Medium
  • Shareholder transparency
  • Risk management structure

The global transition to renewable energy paints a complex future for the sector, though it’s uncertain when oil demand will peak—predictions range from 2025 all the way to 2040. Nevertheless, market participants are taking action. To date, over 1,200 institutional investors representing $14 trillion in assets have made commitments to divest from fossil fuels.

Social risks are another source of uncertainty, especially as public awareness around climate change increases. A planned expansion of the Keystone Pipeline System, referred to as Keystone XL, has faced nearly a decade of public resistance and currently remains blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Last but not least are governance risks. With many investors considering the switch to a fossil fuel-free portfolio, shareholder transparency will be of utmost importance. The onus will be on company management to demonstrate that they have a clear understanding of the risks and opportunities ahead. Royal Dutch Shell, the world’s fourth largest oil company, has made progress on this front by announcing its strategy for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Financials

Social and governance risks are the top priorities for investors in the financial sector. Firms that finance the fossil fuel industry may have indirect exposure to environmental risks.

RiskImportanceIssues to Consider

Environmental

Low
  • Indirect exposure to the fossil fuel industry

Social

Medium
  • Aggressive or deceptive selling practices
  • Client relations


Governance

Medium
  • Corporate governance
  • Executive compensation

Underpinning the strength of the financial sector is consumer trust and client service. By using aggressive or deceptive selling practices, firms risk severe reputational damage and even financial penalties. Wells Fargo, America’s fourth largest bank, was recently fined $3 billion for its account fraud scandal that emerged in 2016.

These issues are closely related to governance risks, where weak internal structures can allow fraudulent activities like money laundering to take place. In fact, over a 15 month period ending in 2019, global banks were fined $10 billion for engaging in the activity. Experts believe that 60% of laundering fines resulted from criminals slipping past screening systems.

Healthcare

Social risks are the top concern for healthcare investors, given the sector’s important role in public health and well-being.

RiskImportanceIssues to Consider

Environmental

Low
  • Chemical activities

Social

Medium
  • Product safety and recalls
  • Inappropriate or misleading marketing

Governance

Low
  • Patient privacy

Unsafe products are one the most clear-cut issues because they directly harm society and shareholders. Johnson & Johnson, one of the world’s largest healthcare companies, has faced thousands of lawsuits for failing to warn consumers about asbestos in its baby powder products. The company was recently ordered to pay $2.1 billion in damages by a Missouri appeals court.

The use of inappropriate advertising is another issue that investors may want to watch out for. In 2019, Mundipharma was fined by the Australian government for making inaccurate statements in its marketing materials for opioids.

Software & IT Services

Companies in this sector are exposed to various social and governance risks, but are not known to be large polluters.

RiskImportanceIssues to Consider

Environmental

Low
  • Operation of data centers

Social

High
  • User privacy
  • Data security

Governance

Medium
  • Shareholder structure
  • Antitrust disputes

Many firms in this industry collect and monetize user data, exposing their shareholders to data privacy and security risks. Facebook has been at the center of numerous controversies in recent years, including the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw the unconsented collection of personal data from 87 million users. Polls found that 44% of Facebook users viewed the platform more negatively after the scandal.

These risks are likely to be amplified as governments take a firmer stance on data regulation. In 2018, the EU implemented its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), one of the world’s toughest privacy and security laws. In certain cases, noncompliance with the GDPR can result in fines equal to 4% of a company’s global revenues.

Navigating an Uncertain Future

Global sustainability issues are creating a more challenging environment for businesses in all types of industries. To hedge these risks, investors are turning to ESG in massive numbers—the value of sustainably managed assets now sits at $40.5 trillion, nearly double the amount from four years ago.

It’s important to remember, however, that businesses are unique. A social issue affecting one industry may not be as relevant for another. When armed with this knowledge, investors will be able to make more informed decisions that strengthen the long-term resiliency of their portfolios.

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