The U.S. Stock Market in 2021: Best and Worst Performing Sectors
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The U.S. Stock Market in 2021: Best and Worst Performing Sectors

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U.S. Stock Market in 2021: The Best and Worst Performing Sectors

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The Stock Market in 2021: Best and Worst Performing Sectors

It was another eventful year—and while it may not quite compare to the pandemonium experienced in 2020, it was still jam-packed with market moving events, such as:

  • The highly-anticipated rollout of COVID-19 vaccines
  • Supply chain disruptions and an ongoing semiconductor shortage
  • Record-setting stimulus spending and debt accumulation by governments around the world
  • The emergence of new variants of concern such as Delta and Omicron
  • Big political upsets and the Capitol riots
  • Rising evidence of (non-transitory) inflation

Let’s take a look at which sectors thrived during the twists and turns of 2021—and which couldn’t stomach the volatility.

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Winners and Losers of 2021, by Sector

Our visualization today uses an augmented screenshot of the FinViz treemap, showing the final numbers posted for major U.S.-listed companies, sorted by sector and industry.

Here are the big beneficiaries of last year, along with those that got left behind.

The Winners

1. Big Tech

Over recent years, it’s been no surprise to see Big Tech near the top of any list. In 2021, Alphabet continued its tear, soaring 65% to hit a $2 trillion market cap.

Microsoft finished up the year 51%, Apple up 34%, and even Meta Platforms (née Facebook) posted double-digit gains. Only Amazon had single-digit gains, up 2.4% in 2021.

2. Semiconductors

Who benefitted most from the ongoing semiconductor shortage? Those that design or manufacture them, of course.

Nvidia, for example, more than doubled its share price over the course of the year, with 125% growth. Other companies in the semiconductor equipment and materials space, such as ASML and Applied Materials, saw gains above 60%.

3. Oil and Gas Exploration & Production

2020 was touch-and-go for oil prices, with futures even sliding negative at one point. However, the most recent year was much kinder to those in the energy industry.

The WTI price started the year below $50 per barrel, but finished the year at $75 per barrel—a swing that makes a big difference in the economics of each barrel.

4. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

It was one of the biggest years in decades for REITs, which saw the FTSE Nareit All Equity REITs index have its best performance since 1976.

Those that know REITs are aware that returns vary by property sector, and this remains the case here. Specifically, it was industrial REITs—and especially self-storage REITs—that outperformed. Extra Space Storage, a REIT that invests in self-storage units, finished up the year 96% and is the perfect example of this.

5. Asset Management

With record-low interest rates and continued upheaval from COVID-19, it sets a perfect stage for opportunistic private equity firms.

The asset management industry as a whole did well in 2021, but specifically it was PE firms like Blackstone and KKR that took advantage, posting gains of 99% and 84% respectfully.

Honorable Mentions:
Banks, Retail Home Improvement, Building Materials, Healthcare Plans, Engineering & Construction

The Losers

1. Precious Metal Miners

Inflation took off in 2021, and a usual beneficiary of this is the precious metals sector.

However, in the last 12 months, this has not been the case. Both gold and silver finished with negative returns on the year, which hurt precious metal miners.

2. Chinese Ecommerce

Beijing has been cracking down on China’s domestic tech sector as of late, and this has had a knock-on effect on companies like Pinduoduo, Alibaba, Baidu, and JD.com, which saw a collective collapse in their share prices.

All were down double digits, but Pinduoduo—the largest agriculture-focused technology platform in China—saw the highest amount of drag, falling over 67% on the year.

3. Solar Companies

Solar installations in the U.S. are chugging along at a record pace, as expected.

However, both regulatory uncertainty and supply chain problems have hampered stock prices in the short term. That’s why companies like Sunrun, a residential solar panel company, saw a 51% dip in stock performance in 2021.

4. Internet Content and Information

Big tech continued its surge, but other tech-enabled content and information companies saw tougher years. One example of this is Zillow, which shuttered the doors on its home flipping operation after realizing losses of $500 million.

Zillow stock was down 54% on the year, and has laid off a quarter of its staff.

5. Big Credit

It was a mediocre year for the big credit card companies like Visa and Mastercard, which were both flat in terms of stock market performance. Meanwhile, PayPal fell 19%.

According to billionaire investor Chamath Palihapitiya, 2022 may not be any better. Days ago, he predicted that both Visa and Mastercard will be the biggest business failures in the coming year.

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Markets

Mapped: GDP Growth Forecasts by Country, in 2023

The global economy faces an uncertain future in 2023. This year, GDP growth is projected to be 2.9%—down from 3.2% in 2022.

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GDP Growth

Mapped: GDP Growth Forecasts by Country, in 2023

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Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine early last year, talk of global recession has dominated the outlook for 2023.

High inflation, spurred by rising energy costs, has tested GDP growth. Tightening monetary policy in the U.S., with interest rates jumping from roughly 0% to over 4% in 2022, has historically preceded a downturn about one to two years later.

For European economies, energy prices are critical. The good news is that prices have fallen recently since March highs, but the continent remains on shaky ground.

The above infographic maps GDP growth forecasts by country for the year ahead, based on projections from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) October 2022 Outlook and January 2023 update.

2023 GDP Growth Outlook

The world economy is projected to see just 2.9% GDP growth in 2023, down from 3.2% projected for 2022.

This is a 0.2% increase since the October 2022 Outlook thanks in part to China’s reopening, higher global demand, and slowing inflation projected across certain countries in the year ahead.

With this in mind, we show GDP growth forecasts for 191 jurisdictions given multiple economic headwinds—and a few emerging bright spots in 2023.

Country / Region2023 Real GDP % Change (Projected)
🇦🇱 Albania2.5%
🇩🇿 Algeria2.6%
🇦🇴 Angola3.4%
🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda5.6%
🇦🇷 Argentina*2.0%
🇦🇲 Armenia3.5%
🇦🇼 Aruba2.0%
🇦🇺 Australia*1.6%
🇦🇹 Austria1.0%
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan2.5%
🇧🇭 Bahrain3.0%
🇧🇩 Bangladesh6.0%
🇧🇧 Barbados5.0%
🇧🇾 Belarus0.2%
🇧🇪 Belgium0.4%
🇧🇿 Belize2.0%
🇧🇯 Benin6.2%
🇧🇹 Bhutan4.3%
🇧🇴 Bolivia3.2%
🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina2.0%
🇧🇼 Botswana4.0%
🇧🇷 Brazil*1.2%
🇧🇳 Brunei Darussalam3.3%
🇧🇬 Bulgaria3.0%
🇧🇫 Burkina Faso4.8%
🇧🇮 Burundi4.1%
🇨🇻 Cabo Verde4.8%
🇨🇲 Cameroon4.6%
🇰🇭 Cambodia6.2%
🇨🇦 Canada*1.5%
🇨🇫 Central African Republic3.0%
🇹🇩 Chad3.4%
🇨🇱 Chile-1.0%
🇨🇳 China*5.3%
🇨🇴 Colombia2.2%
🇰🇲 Comoros3.4%
🇨🇷 Costa Rica2.9%
🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire6.5%
🇭🇷 Croatia3.5%
🇨🇾 Cyprus2.5%
🇨🇿 Czech Republic1.5%
🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of the Congo6.7%
🇩🇰 Denmark0.6%
🇩🇯 Djibouti5.0%
🇩🇲 Dominica4.9%
🇩🇴 Dominican Republic4.5%
🇪🇨 Ecuador2.7%
🇪🇬 Egypt*4.0%
🇸🇻 El Salvador1.7%
🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea-3.1%
🇪🇷 Eritrea2.9%
🇪🇪 Estonia1.8%
🇸🇿 Eswatini1.8%
🇪🇹 Ethiopia5.3%
🇫🇯 Fiji6.9%
🇫🇮 Finland0.5%
🇫🇷 France*0.7%
🇲🇰 North Macedonia3.0%
🇬🇦 Gabon3.7%
Georgia4.0%
Germany*0.1%
Ghana2.8%
Greece1.8%
Grenada3.6%
Guatemala3.2%
Guinea5.1%
Guinea-Bissau4.5%
Guyana25.2%
Haiti0.5%
Honduras3.5%
Hong Kong SAR3.9%
Hungary1.8%
Iceland2.9%
India*6.1%
Indonesia*4.8%
Iraq4.0%
Ireland4.0%
Iran*2.0%
Israel3.0%
Italy*0.6%
Jamaica3.0%
Japan*1.8%
Jordan2.7%
Kazakhstan*4.3%
Kenya5.1%
Kiribati2.4%
South Korea*1.7%
Kosovo3.5%
Kuwait2.6%
Kyrgyz Republic3.2%
Lao P.D.R.3.1%
Latvia1.6%
Lesotho1.6%
Liberia4.2%
Libya17.9%
Lithuania1.1%
Luxembourg1.1%
Macao SAR56.7%
Madagascar5.2%
🇲🇼 Malawi2.5%
🇲🇾 Malaysia*4.4%
🇲🇻 Maldives6.1%
🇲🇱 Mali5.3%
🇲🇹 Malta3.3%
🇲🇭 Marshall Islands3.2%
🇲🇷 Mauritania4.8%
🇲🇺 Mauritius5.4%
🇲🇽 Mexico*1.7%
🇫🇲 Micronesia2.9%
🇲🇩 Moldova2.3%
🇲🇳 Mongolia5.0%
🇲🇪 Montenegro2.5%
🇲🇦 Morocco3.1%
🇲🇿 Mozambique4.9%
🇲🇲 Myanmar3.3%
🇳🇦 Namibia3.2%
🇳🇷 Nauru2.0%
🇳🇵 Nepal5.0%
🇳🇱 Netherlands*0.6%
🇳🇿 New Zealand1.9%
🇳🇮 Nicaragua3.0%
🇳🇪 Niger7.3%
🇳🇬 Nigeria*3.2%
🇳🇴 Norway2.6%
🇴🇲 Oman4.1%
🇵🇰 Pakistan*2.0%
🇵🇼 Palau12.3%
🇵🇦 Panama4.0%
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea5.1%
🇵🇾 Paraguay4.3%
🇵🇪 Peru2.6%
🇵🇭 Philippines*5.0%
🇵🇱 Poland*0.3%
🇵🇹 Portugal0.7%
🇵🇷 Puerto Rico0.4%
🇶🇦 Qatar2.4%
🇨🇬 Republic of Congo4.6%
🇷🇴 Romania3.1%
🇷🇺 Russia*0.3%
🇷🇼 Rwanda6.7%
🇼🇸 Samoa4.0%
🇸🇲 San Marino0.8%
🇸🇹 São Tomé and Príncipe2.6%
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia*2.6%
🇸🇳 Senegal8.1%
🇷🇸 Serbia2.7%
🇸🇨 Seychelles5.2%
🇸🇱 Sierra Leone3.3%
🇸🇬 Singapore2.3%
🇸🇰 Slovak Republic1.5%
🇸🇮 Slovenia1.7%
🇸🇧 Solomon Islands2.6%
🇸🇴 Somalia3.1%
🇿🇦 South Africa*1.2%
🇸🇸 South Sudan5.6%
🇪🇸 Spain*1.1%
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka-3.0%
🇰🇳 St. Kitts and Nevis4.8%
🇱🇨 St. Lucia5.8%
🇻🇨 St. Vincent and the Grenadines6.0%
🇸🇩 Sudan2.6%
🇸🇷 Suriname2.3%
🇸🇪 Sweden-0.1%
🇨🇭 Switzerland0.8%
🇹🇼 Taiwan2.8%
🇹🇯 Tajikistan4.0%
🇹🇿 Tanzania5.2%
🇹🇭 Thailand*3.7%
🇧🇸 The Bahamas4.1%
🇬🇲 The Gambia6.0%
🇹🇱 Timor-Leste4.2%
🇹🇬 Togo6.2%
🇹🇴 Tonga2.9%
🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago3.5%
🇹🇳 Tunisia1.6%
🇹🇷 Turkey*3.0%
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan2.3%
🇹🇻 Tuvalu3.5%
🇺🇬 Uganda5.9%
🇺🇦 UkraineN/A
🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates4.2%
🇬🇧 United Kingdom*-0.6%
🇺🇲 U.S.*1.4%
🇺🇾 Uruguay3.6%
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan4.7%
🇻🇺 Vanuatu3.1%
🇻🇪 Venezuela6.5%
🇻🇳 Vietnam6.2%
West Bank and Gaza3.5%
🇾🇪 Yemen3.3%
🇿🇲 Zambia4.0%
🇿🇼 Zimbabwe2.8%

*Reflect updated figures from the January 2023 IMF Update.

The U.S. is forecast to see 1.4% GDP growth in 2023, up from 1.0% seen in the last October projection.

Still, signs of economic weakness can be seen in the growing wave of tech layoffs, foreshadowed as a white-collar or ‘Patagonia-vest’ recession. Last year, 88,000 tech jobs were cut and this trend has continued into 2023. Major financial firms have also followed suit. Still, unemployment remains fairly steadfast, at 3.5% as of December 2022. Going forward, concerns remain around inflation and the path of interest rate hikes, though both show signs of slowing.

Across Europe, the average projected GDP growth rate is 0.7% for 2023, a sharp decline from the 2.1% forecast for last year.

Both Germany and Italy are forecast to see slight growth, at 0.1% and 0.6%, respectively. Growth forecasts were revised upwards since the IMF’s October release. However, an ongoing energy crisis exposes the manufacturing sector to vulnerabilities, with potential spillover effects to consumers and businesses, and overall Euro Area growth.

China remains an open question. In 2023, growth is predicted to rise 5.2%, higher than many large economies. While its real estate sector has shown signs of weakness, the recent opening on January 8th, following 1,016 days of zero-Covid policy, could boost demand and economic activity.

A Long Way to Go

The IMF has stated that 2023 will feel like a recession for much of the global economy. But whether it is headed for a recovery or a sharper decline remains unknown.

Today, two factors propping up the global economy are lower-than-expected energy prices and resilient private sector balance sheets. European natural gas prices have sunk to levels seen before the war in Ukraine. During the height of energy shocks, firms showed a notable ability to withstand astronomical energy prices squeezing their finances. They are also sitting on significant cash reserves.

On the other hand, inflation is far from over. To counter this effect, many central banks will have to use measures to rein in prices. This may in turn have a dampening effect on economic growth and financial markets, with unknown consequences.

As economic data continues to be released over the year, there may be a divergence between consumer sentiment and whether things are actually changing in the economy. Where the economy is heading in 2023 will be anyone’s guess.

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