What Are the Sectors and Industries of the S&P 500?
Understanding the Makeup of the Economy, Stock Market, and Stock Market Indices
One of the most important concepts new investors in the stock market need to learn has to do with sectors and industries. Here we'll walk you through the definition of these concepts, explain what they are in practical terms, and show you how they fit into one of America's largest stock market indices, the S&P 500.
What Is the Difference Between a Sector and an Industry?
The general economy and stock market are organized into two tiers. The highest tier, a sector, is a broad grouping of companies that have similar economic characteristics. There are currently 11 major sectors that most investors use when breaking down the corporations and other issuers of securities such as stocks and bonds.
Sectors, in turn, are broken down into sub-categories known as industries. This allows a closer grouping of similar businesses. For example, both Dollar Tree, the discount retail chain, and Tiffany & Company, the luxury jeweler, are included in the consumer discretionary sector. However, they are sorted into different industries.
What Are the Advantages of Paying Attention to Sectors and Industries?
Examining sectors and industries allows you to compare one business to its closest competitors. You may think a certain stock is a good purchase, but until you research its rivals, you won't know for sure.
Looking at sectors and industries also helps you become familiar with how businesses interact with one another. For example, if you believe that energy prices are going to decline, you might find transportation stocks appealing, because you believe one of the biggest cost inputs — gasoline and jet fuel — is about to plummet. When combined with disciplined, long-term, tax-efficient, low-turnover, highly passive investing, this knowledge can be a ticket to building wealth.
It's also now possible to invest in an entire sector or industry with one purchase. Rather than buy shares of every company in a given industry or sector, you can get exposure to all of them in a single investment. With exchange traded funds (ETFs), smaller investors can often buy a diversified basket of an entire grouping, often with little to no commission and expense ratios that are typically less than 0.50% to 1.00%. These ETFs are similar to mutual funds but trade like stocks, and allow an investor to get exposure to a wide range of investments in a sector or industry without needing to research individual stocks.
Many financial advisers recommend that investors try to maintain a portfolio that offers good exposure to all of these industries and sectors.
For now, let's dive into the sector and industry breakdown of the U.S. stock market as a whole. I'm going to use the S&P 500 index as a proxy for the stock market. As of the most recent stock market close on December 7th, 2018, the total value of all stocks in the S&P 500 index came to $23.28 trillion.
Communication Services Sector of the S&P 500
From telephone access to high-speed internet, the communication services sector of the economy keeps us all connected. At present, the communication services sector is made up of two industries:
- Diversified Telecommunication Services
- Wireless Telecommunication Services
As of December 10, 2018, the total value of all telecommunication services stocks in the United States came to $4.33 trillion, or 9.93% of the market. The communications industry includes stocks such as AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile.
Consumer Discretionary Sector of the S&P 500
The consumer discretionary sector consists of businesses that have demand that rises and falls based on general economic conditions such as washers and dryers, sporting goods, new cars, and diamond engagement rings. At present, the consumer discretionary sector contains ten industries. Examples of consumer discretionary stocks include Apple, Disney, and Starbucks.
- Automobile Components Industry
- Automobiles Industry
- Distributors Industry
- Diversified Consumer Services Industry
- Hotels, Restaurants & Leisure Industry
- Household Durables Industry
- Leisure Products Industry
- Multiline Retail Industry
- Specialty Retail Industry
- Textile, Apparel & Luxury Goods Industry
As of December 7, 2018, the total value of all consumer discretionary stocks in the United States came to $4.53 trillion, or about 9.90% of the market.
Consumer Staples Sector of the S&P 500
The consumer staples sector consists of businesses that sell the necessities of life, ranging from bleach and laundry detergent to toothpaste and packaged food. At present, the consumer staples sector contains six industries and includes companies such as Procter & Gamble, Kroger, and Anheuser Busch InBev.
- Beverages Industry
- Food & Staples Retailing Industry
- Food Products Industry
- Household Products Industry
- Personal Products Industry
- Tobacco Industry
As of December 7, 2018, the total value of all consumer staples stocks in the United States came to $3.31 trillion, or about 7.35% of the market. This is a particularly interesting sector because it is one of the few that disproportionately produces rich shareholders over long periods of time.
Energy Sector of the S&P 500
The energy sector consists of businesses that source, drill, extract, and refine the raw commodities we need to keep the country going, such as oil and gas. At present, the energy sector contains two industries.
- Energy Equipment & Services Industry
- Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels Industry
As of December 7, 2018, the total value of all energy stocks in the United States came to $3.39 trillion, or about 5.60% of the market. Falling energy prices have made energy stocks a declining part of the S&P 500 in recent years. Major energy stocks include Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and Halliburton.
Financials Sector of the S&P 500
The financial sector consists of banks, insurance companies, real estate investment trusts, credit card issuers, and a host of other money-centric enterprises that keep the debits and credits of the economy flowing. At present, the financial sector contains seven industries.
- Banking Industry
- Capital Markets Industry
- Consumer Finance Industry
- Diversified Financial Services Industry
- Insurance Industry
- Mortgage Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) Industry
- Thrifts & Mortgage Finance Industry
As of December 7, 2018, the total value of all financial stocks in the United States came to $6.65 trillion, or about 13.35% of the market. JPMorganChase, GoldmanSachs, and Bank of America are all examples of financial stocks.
Health Care Sector of the S&P 500
The health care sector consists of drug companies, medical supply companies, and other scientific-based operations that are concerned with improving and healing human life. At present, the health care sector contains six industries.
- Biotechnology Industry
- Health Care Equipment & Supplies Industry
- Health Care Providers & Services Industry
- Health Care Technology Industry
- Life Sciences Tools & Services Industry
- Pharmaceuticals Industry
As of December 7, 2018, the total value of all health care stocks in the United States came to $5.40 trillion, or about 15.58% of the market. Examples of health care stocks include Johnson & Johnson, Gilead, and Pfizer.
Industrials Sector of the S&P 500
From railroads and airlines to military weapons and industrial conglomerates, the industrial sector makes it possible for modern civilization to exist. At present, the industrial sector contains fourteen industries.
- Aerospace & Defense Industry
- Air Freight & Logistics Industry
- Airlines Industry
- Building Products Industry
- Commercial Services & Supplies Industry
- Construction & Engineering Industry
- Electrical Equipment Industry
- Industrial Conglomerates Industry
- Machinery Industry
- Marine Industry
- Professional Services Industry
- Road & Rail Industry
- Trading Companies & Distributors Industry
- Transportation Infrastructure Industry
As of December 7, 2018, the total value of all industrial stocks in the United States came to $3.68 trillion, or about 9.20% of the market. Major industrial stocks include Lockheed Martin, CSX, and U.S. Steel.
Information Technology Sector of the S&P 500
The information technology (IT) sector is home to the hardware, software, computer equipment, and IT services operations that make it possible for you to be reading this right now. From microprocessors to printers, operating systems to cell phone handsets, recent advances in technology have turned IT into a giant part of the domestic and global economies. At present, the information technology sector contains six industries.
- Communications Equipment Industry
- Electronic Equipment, Instruments & Components Industry
- IT Services Industry
- Semiconductors & Semiconductor Equipment Industry
- Software Industry
- Technology Hardware, Storage & Peripherals Industry
As of December 7, 2018, the total value of all information technology stocks in the United States came to $6.54 trillion, or about 19.93% of the market. It is the largest sector in the S&P 500. Top IT stocks include Microsoft, Dell, and Alphabet.
Materials Sector of the S&P 500
The building blocks that supply the other sectors with the raw materials it needs to conduct business, the material sector manufacturers, logs, and mines everything from precious metals, paper, and chemicals to shipping containers, wood pulp, and industrial ore. At present, the material sector contains five industries.
- Chemicals Industry
- Construction Materials Industry
- Containers & Packaging Industry
- Metals & Mining Industry
- Paper & Forest Products Industry
As of December 7, 2018, the total value of all materials stocks in the United States came to $1.70 trillion, or about 2.60% of the market. Major materials stocks include DowDupont, Ecolab, and International Paper.
Real Estate Sector of the S&P 500
The real estate sector includes all Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) with the exception of Mortgage REITs, which is housed under the financial sector. The sector also includes companies that manage and develop properties. At present, the Real Estate sector is made up of two industries:
- Equity Real Estate Investment Trusts
- Real Estate Management & Development
As of December 7, 2018, the total value of all real estate stocks in the United States came to $1.20 trillion, or 3.05% of the market. The real estate industry includes stocks such as American Tower, Simon Property Group and Prologis.
Utilities Sector of the S&P 500
The utilities sector of the economy is home to the firms that make our lights work when we flip the switch, let our stoves erupt in flame when we want to cook food, make water come out of the tap when we are thirsty, and more. At present, the utilities sector is made up of five industries.
- Electric Utilities Industry
- Gas Utilities Industry
- Independent Power and Renewable Electricity Producers Industry
- Multi-Utilities Industry
- Water Utilities Industry
As of December 10, 2016, the total value of all utilities stocks in the United States came to $1.28 trillion, or about 3.33% of the market. It is the smallest sector of the S&P 500. Utlities stocks include many local electricity and water companies including Exelon, Dominion Resources, and NV Energy.