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.
30 Years of Gun Manufacturing in America
The U.S. has produced nearly 170 million firearms over the past three decades. Here are the numbers behind America’s gun manufacturing sector.
30 Years of Gun Manufacturing in America
While gun sales have been brisk in recent years, the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 was a boon for the gun industry.
From 2010-2019, an average of 13 million guns were sold legally in the U.S. each year. In 2020 and 2021, annual gun sales sharply increased to 20 million.
While the U.S. does import millions of weapons each year, a large amount of firearms sold in the country were produced domestically. Let’s dig into the data behind the multi-billion dollar gun manufacturing industry in America.
Gun Manufacturing in the United States
According to a recent report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the U.S. has produced nearly 170 million firearms over the past three decades, with production increasing sharply in recent years.
America’s gunmakers produce a wide variety of firearms, but they’re generally grouped into five categories; pistols, rifles, shotguns, revolvers, and everything else.
Below is a breakdown of firearms manufactured in the country over the past 30 years, by type:
|Year||Pistols||Rifles||Revolvers||Shotguns||Misc. Firearms||Total Firearms|
Pistols (36%) and rifles (35%) are the dominant categories, and over time, the former has become the most commonly produced firearm type.
In 2001, pistols accounted for 21% of firearms produced. Today, nearly half of all firearms produced are pistols.
Who is Producing America’s Firearms?
There are a wide variety of firearm manufacturing companies in the U.S., but production is dominated by a few key players.
Here are the top 10 gunmakers in America, which collectively make up 70% of production:
|Rank||Firearm Manufacturer||Guns Produced (2016-2020)||Share of total|
|1||Smith & Wesson Corp||8,218,199||17.2%|
|2||Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc||8,166,448||17.1%|
|3||Sig Sauer Inc||3,660,629||7.7%|
|5||0 F Mossberg & Sons Inc||2,223,241||4.7%|
|6||Taurus International Manufacturing||1,996,121||4.2%|
|7||WM C Anderson Inc||1,816,625||3.8%|
|9||Henry RAC Holding Corp||1,378,544||2.9%|
|10||JIE Capital Holdings / Enterprises||1,258,969||2.6%|
One-third of production comes from two publicly-traded parent companies: Smith & Wesson (NASDAQ: SWBI), and Sturm, Ruger & Co. (NYSE: RGR)
Some of these players are especially dominant within certain types of firearms. For example:
- 58% of pistols were made by Smith & Wesson, Ruger, and SIG SAUER (2008–2018)
- 45% of rifles were made by Remington*, Ruger, and Smith & Wesson (2008–2018)
*In 2020, Remington filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and its assets were divided and sold to various buyers. The Remington brand name is now owned by Vista Outdoor (NYSE: VSTO)
The Geography of Gun Manufacturing
Companies that manufacture guns hold a Type 07 license from the ATF. As of 2020, there are more than 16,000 Type 07 licensees across the United States.
Below is a state-level look at where the country’s licensees are located:
|State||Licenses (2000)||Licenses (2020)||Population||Licenses per 100,000 pop. (2020)|
These manufacturers are located all around the country, so these numbers are somewhat reflective of population. Unsurprisingly, large states like Texas and Florida have the most licensees.
Sorting by the number of licensees per 100,000 people offers a different point of view. By this measure, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho come out on top.
If recent sales and production trends are any indication, these numbers may only continue to grow.
Made in America: Goods Exports by State
The U.S. exported $1.8 trillion worth of goods in 2021. This infographic looks at where that trade activity took place across the nation.
Made in America: Goods Exports by State
After China, the U.S. is the next largest exporter of goods in the world, shipping out $1.8 trillion worth of goods in 2021—an increase of 23% over the previous year.
Of course, that massive number doesn’t tell the whole story. The U.S. economy is multifaceted, with varying levels of trade activity taking place all across the nation.
Using the latest data on international trade from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, we’ve visualized the value of America’s goods exports by state.
Top 10 Exporter States
Here are the top 10 American states that exported the highest dollar value worth of goods during 2021. Combined, these export-leading states represent 59.4% of the nation’s total exports.
|Rank||State||Total Exports Value||% share|
|#3||New York||$84.9 billion||4.8%|
|#10||New Jersey||$49.5 billion||2.8%|
|Top 10 States||$1.04 trillion||59.4%|
Texas has been the top exporting state in the U.S. for an incredible 20 years in a row.
Last year, Texas exported $375 billion worth of goods, which is more than California ($175 billion), New York ($85 billion), and Louisiana ($77 billion) combined. The state’s largest manufacturing export category is petroleum and coal products, but it’s also important to mention that Texas led the nation in tech exports for the ninth straight year.
California was the second highest exporter of goods in 2021 with a total value of $175 billion, an increase of 12% from the previous year. The state’s main export by value was computer and electronic product manufacturing, representing 17.8% of the total U.S. exports of that industry. California was also second among all states in exports of machinery manufacturing, accounting for 13.9% of the U.S. total.
What Type of Goods are Exported?
Here is a breakdown of the biggest U.S. export categories by value in 2021.
|Rank||Product Group||Annual Export Value (2021)||Share of Total Exports|
|1||Mineral fuels including oil||$239.8 billion||13.7%|
|2||Machinery including computers||$209.3 billion||11.9%|
|3||Electrical machinery, equipment||$185.4 billion||10.6%|
|5||Optical, technical, medical apparatus||$91.7 billion||5.2%|
|6||Aircraft, spacecraft||$89.1 billion||5.1%|
|7||Gems, precious metals||$82.3 billion||4.7%|
|9||Plastics, plastic articles||$74.3 billion||4.2%|
|10||Organic chemicals||$42.9 billion||2.4%|
These top 10 export categories alone represent almost 70% of America’s total exports.
The biggest grower among this list is mineral fuels, up by 59% from last year. Pharmaceuticals saw the second biggest one-year increase (45%).
Top 10 U.S. Exports by Country of Destination
So who is buying “Made in America” products?
Unsurprisingly, neighboring countries Canada (17.5%) and Mexico (15.8%) are the two biggest buyers of American goods. Together, they purchase one-third of American exports.
|Rank||Destination Country||Share of U.S. Goods Exports|
|5||🇰🇷 South Korea||3.7%|
|7||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||3.5%|
Three Asian countries round out the top five list: China (8.6%), Japan (4.3%), and South Korea (3.7%). Together, the top five countries account for around half of all goods exports.
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