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One of the signs of the tech bubble was how Information Technology as a sector ballooned from less than 6% (in 1989) to 29.18% (in 1999) in relation to the S&P 500 capitalization. Turning that idea on its head, let’s take a look at the financial sector during the past few years as a ratio of the general market.
As a caveat, let me reiterate that bull and bear markets within the financial sector don’t correspond to the general market: Does a bull market need financial stocks leadership? While at first it may be counter-intuitive, the data backs up the conclusion as you can see from the link.
But nevertheless, following the weight of sectors within the total market capitalization can help us in getting oriented. So I looked at the Standard & Poor’s Financials sector which includes the following sub-sectors (and more):
- Consumer Finance
- Diversified Financial Services
- Real Estate Investment Trusts
- Insurance Brokers
- Life & Health Insurance
- Multi-line Insurance
- Property & Casualty Insurance
Here is the annual weight of the financial sector and the banking sub-sector relative to the S&P 500 capitalization (the charts below are interactive so mouse over for details). I was surprised to see that the financial sector topped out in 2006 at a whopping 22.27% of the total value of the S&P 500 index. That’s almost 3 times what it was in 1990:
Zooming in, we can see the monthly weight of the financial sector as a percentage of the total S&P 500 index capitalization from the start of the most recent bear market:
At the extreme low, set in early March 2009 just as the rest of the market was making its recent low, the financial sector reached a critical level it hadn’t seen since 1990! Since then it has jumped to 12.6% as the financial sector has lead the recovery in the general stock market. While no one knows if this is the definitive bottom for the banks, we can say that the March lows were a major low where the sector was as unloved as it has been for the past 20 years.
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