August was a month in which the S&P 500 largely drifted sideways, but there was a good deal going on in the various sectors that make up the index. The graphic below shows sector performance for the nine sector SPDRs for the first eight months of 2008 (bottom) and for the month August (top).
On the plus side, the turnaround in the consumer discretionary sector (XLY) is clearly responsible for much of the recent positive momentum in the SPX. Also worth noting is that four other sectors outperformed the index in August: consumer staples (XLP), health care (XLV), industrials (XLI), and technology (XLK).
As has often been the case during the past few months, when the SPX has been moving up, energy (XLE) and materials (XLB) have been moving in the opposite direction. In August, the financial sector (XLF) was also pulling the index in the wrong direction.
Watch the consumer for more clues about sector leadership and overall market strength in the month of September.