If the prognosis is for an expanding economy, then certain groups are likely to benefit more than others. An investor can narrow the field to those groups that are best suited to benefit from the current or future economic environment. If most companies are expected to benefit from an expansion, then risk in equities would be relatively low and an aggressive growth-oriented strategy might be advisable. A growth strategy might involve the purchase of technology, biotech, semiconductor and cyclical stocks. If the economy is forecast to contract, an investor may opt for a more conservative strategy and seek out stable income-oriented companies. A defensive strategy might involve the purchase of consumer staples, utilities, and energy-related stocks.
To assess an industry group’s potential, an investor would want to consider the overall growth rate, market size, and importance to the economy. While the individual company is still important, its industry group is likely to exert just as much, or more, influence on the stock price. When stocks move, they usually move as groups; there are very few lone guns out there. Many times it is more important to be in the right industry than in the right stock! The chart below shows that relative performance of 5 sectors over a 7-month timeframe. As the chart illustrates, being in the right sector can make all the difference.