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.
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.
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.
Banks, Retail Home Improvement, Building Materials, Healthcare Plans, Engineering & Construction
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.
Thematic Investing: 3 Key Trends in Cybersecurity
Cyberattacks are becoming more frequent and sophisticated. Here’s what investors need to know about the future of cybersecurity.
Thematic Investing: 3 Key Trends in Cybersecurity
In 2020, the global cost of cybercrime was estimated to be around $945 billion, according to McAfee.
It’s likely even higher today, as multiple sources have recorded an increase in the frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks during the pandemic.
In this infographic from Global X ETFs, we highlight three major trends that are shaping the future of the cybersecurity industry that investors need to know.
Trend 1: Increasing Costs
Research from IBM determined that the average data breach cost businesses $4.2 million in 2021, up from $3.6 million in 2017. The following table breaks this figure into four components:
|Cost Component||Value ($)|
|Cost of lost business||$1.6M|
|Detection and escalation||$1.2M|
|Post breach response||$1.1M|
The greatest cost of a data breach is lost business, which results from system downtimes, reputational losses, and lost customers. Second is detection and escalation, including investigative activities, audit services, and communications to stakeholders.
Post breach response includes costs such as legal expenditures, issuing new accounts or credit cards (in the case of financial institutions), and other monitoring services. Lastly, notification refers to the cost of notifying regulators, stakeholders, and other third parties.
To stay ahead of these rising costs, businesses are placing more emphasis on cybersecurity. For example, Microsoft announced in September 2021 that it would quadruple its cybersecurity investments to $20 billion over the next five years.
Trend 2: Remote Work Opens New Vulnerabilities
According to IBM, companies that rely more on remote work experience greater losses from data breaches. For companies where 81 to 100% of employees were remote, the average cost of a data breach was $5.5 million (2021). This dropped to $3.7 million for companies that had under 10% of employees working from home.
A major reason for this gap is that work-from-home setups are typically less secure. Phishing attacks surged in 2021, taking advantage of the fact that many employees access corporate systems through their personal devices.
|Type of Attack||Number of attacks in 2020||Number of attacks in 2021||Growth (%)|
As detected by Trend Micro’s Cloud App Security.
Spam phishing refers to “fake” emails that trick users by impersonating company management. They can include malicious links that download ransomware onto the users device. Credential phishing is similar in concept, though the goal is to steal a person’s account credentials.
A tactic you may have seen before is the Amazon scam, where senders impersonate Amazon and convince users to update their payment methods. This strategy could also be used to gain access to a company’s internal systems.
Trend 3: AI Can Reduce the Cost of a Data Breach
AI-based cybersecurity can detect and respond to cyberattacks without any human intervention. When fully deployed, IBM measured a 20% reduction in the time it takes to identify and contain a breach. It also resulted in cost savings upwards of 60%.
A prominent user of AI-based cybersecurity is Google, which uses machine learning to detect phishing attacks within Gmail.
Machine learning helps Gmail block spam and phishing messages from showing up in your inbox with over 99.9% accuracy. This is huge, given that 50-70% of messages that Gmail receives are spam.
– Andy Wen, Google
As cybercrime escalates, Acumen Research and Consulting believes the market for AI-based security solutions will reach $134 billion by 2030, up from $15 billion in 2021.
Introducing the Global X Cybersecurity ETF
The Global X Cybersecurity ETF (Ticker: BUG) seeks to provide investment results that correspond generally to the price and yield performance, before fees and expenses, of the Indxx Cybersecurity Index. See below for industry and country-level breakdowns, as of June 2022.
|Sector (By security type)||Weight|
|🇰🇷 South Korea||0.9%|
Totals may not equal 100% due to rounding.
Investors can use this passively managed solution to gain exposure to the rising adoption of cybersecurity technologies.
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Visualizing Major Layoffs At U.S. Corporations
This infographic highlights the accelerating pace of layoffs so far in 2022, as businesses cut costs ahead of a potential recession.
Visualizing Major Layoffs at U.S. Corporations
Hiring freezes and layoffs are becoming more common in 2022, as U.S. businesses look to slash costs ahead of a possible recession.
Understandably, this has a lot of people worried. In June 2022, Insight Global found that 78% of American workers fear they will lose their job in the next recession. Additionally, 56% said they aren’t financially prepared, and 54% said they would take a pay cut to avoid being laid off.
In this infographic, we’ve visualized major layoffs announced in 2022 by publicly-traded U.S. corporations.
Note: Due to gaps in reporting, as well as the very large number of U.S. corporations, this list may not be comprehensive.
An Emerging Trend
Layoffs have surged considerably since April of this year. See the table below for high-profile instances of mass layoffs.
|JP Morgan Chase & Co.||Financial Services||~500||June|
Here’s a brief rundown of these layoffs, sorted by industry.
Ford has announced the biggest round of layoffs this year, totalling roughly 8,000 salaried employees. Many of these jobs are in Ford’s legacy combustion engine business. According to CEO Jim Farley, these cuts are necessary to fund the company’s transition to EVs.
We absolutely have too many people in some places, no doubt about it.
– Jim Farley, CEO, Ford
Speaking of EVs, Rivian laid off 840 employees in July, amounting to 6% of its total workforce. The EV startup pointed to inflation, rising interest rates, and increasing commodity prices as factors. The firm’s more established competitor, Tesla, cut 200 jobs from its autopilot division in the month prior.
Last but not least is online used car retailer, Carvana, which cut 2,500 jobs in May. The company experienced rapid growth during the pandemic, but has since fallen out of grace. Year-to-date, the company’s shares are down more than 80%.
Fearing an impending recession, Coinbase has shed 1,100 employees, or 18% of its total workforce. Interestingly, Coinbase does not have a physical headquarters, meaning the entire company operates remotely.
A recession could lead to another crypto winter, and could last for an extended period. In past crypto winters, trading revenue declined significantly.
Brian Armstrong, CEO, Coinbase
Around the same time, JPMorgan Chase & Co. announced it would fire hundreds of home-lending employees. While an exact number isn’t available, we’ve estimated this to be around 500 jobs, based on the original Bloomberg article. Wells Fargo, another major U.S. bank, has also cut 197 jobs from its home mortgage division.
The primary reason for these cuts is rising mortgage rates, which are negatively impacting the demand for homes.
Within tech, Meta and Twitter are two of the most high profile companies to begin making layoffs. In Meta’s case, 350 custodial staff have been let go due to reduced usage of the company’s offices.
Many more cuts are expected, however, as Facebook recently reported its first revenue decline in 10 years. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear he expects the company to do more with fewer resources, and managers have been encouraged to report “low performers” for “failing the company”.
Realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here.
– Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Meta
Also in July, Twitter laid off 30% of its talent acquisition team. An exact number was not available, but the team was estimated to have less than 100 employees. The company has also enacted a hiring freeze as it stumbles through a botched acquisition by Elon Musk.
More Layoffs to Come…
Layoffs are expected to continue throughout the rest of this year, as metrics like consumer sentiment enter a decline. Rising interest rates, which make it more expensive for businesses to borrow money, are also having a negative impact on growth.
In fact just a few days ago, trading platform Robinhood announced it was letting go 23% of its staff. After accounting for its previous layoffs in April (9% of the workforce), it’s fair to estimate that this latest round will impact nearly 800 people.
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