How each asset class, currency and sector of the S&P 500 performed in 2021

The stock market in 2021: the best and worst performing sectors

It has been another eventful year – and while it may not quite compare to the pandemonium experienced in 2020, it was still filled with market movement events, such as:

  • The highly anticipated deployment of COVID-19 vaccines
  • Supply chain disruption and continuing semiconductor shortage
  • Record stimulus spending and debt accumulation by governments around the world
  • The emergence of worrying new variants such as Delta and Omicron
  • Major political upheavals and riots on the Capitol
  • Increasing signs of inflation (not transient)

Let’s take a look at which sectors thrived during the 2021 twists and which could not withstand the volatility.

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2021 winners and losers, by sector

Our visualization today uses an augmented screenshot of the FinViz treemap, showing the final published figures for the top listed companies in the United States, sorted by industry and industry.

Here are the big beneficiaries of the past year, as well as those who were left behind.

The winners

1. Great technology

Over the past few years, it’s no surprise to see Big Tech at the top of the list. In 2021, Alphabet continued its tear, soaring 65% to a 2,000 billion dollars market capitalization.

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

2. Semiconductors

Who has benefited most from the current semiconductor shortage? Those who design or manufacture them, of course.

Nvidia, for example, more than doubled its share price over the year, growing by 125%. Other companies in the semiconductor equipment and materials industry, such as ASML and Applied Materials, posted gains of over 60%.

3. Oil and gas exploration and production

2020 has been a touch-and-go for oil prices, with futures contracts even sliding negative at one point. However, the most recent year has been much more favorable for those in the energy industry.

The price of WTI started the year below $ 50 a barrel, but ended the year at $ 75 a barrel, a change that makes a big difference in the economics of every barrel.

4. Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)

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

Those familiar with REITs know that returns vary by real estate sector, and it remains the case here. More specifically, it was industrial REITs – and in particular self-storage REITs – that outperformed. Extra Space Storage, a REIT that invests in self-storage units, finished the year at 96% and is a perfect example.

5. Asset management

With record interest rates and continued upheaval from COVID-19, this paves the way for opportunistic private equity firms.

The asset management industry as a whole did well in 2021, but it was private equity firms like Blackstone and KKR in particular that benefited, posting gains of 99% and 84% respectively.

Honorable mentions:
Banks, Retail Home Improvement, Building Materials, Healthcare Plans, Engineering and Construction


1. Precious metal miners

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

However, in the past 12 months this has not been the case. Gold and silver both ended the year in negative returns, which hurt precious metal miners.

2. Chinese e-commerce

Recently, Beijing has cracked down on China’s domestic tech sector, which has had a ripple effect on companies like Pinduoduo, Alibaba, Baidu and, which have seen their stock prices collectively collapse. .

All were down in double digits, but Pinduoduo, China’s largest agriculture-focused tech platform, suffered the biggest drag, falling more than 67% on the year.

3. Solar companies

Solar installations in the United States are advancing at a record pace, as expected.

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

4. Internet content and information

Big tech continued to thrive, but other tech-driven content and information companies have had tougher years. An example of this is Zillow, who closed the doors to his home turnaround operation after realizing losses of $ 500 million.

Zillow stock fell 54% over the year and laid off a quarter of its staff.

5. Big credit

It has been a poor year for major credit card companies like Visa and Mastercard, both of which have been stable in terms of market performance. Meanwhile, PayPal fell 19%.

According to billionaire investor Chamath Palihapitiya, 2022 might not be better. A few days ago, he predicted that Visa and Mastercard would be the biggest business failures in the coming year.

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