Sunday, April 19, 2009

S&P 500 Financials Eye First Top Finish Since ’93: Chart of Day

Financial companies are the best performers in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index this quarter, a ranking that has eluded them for more than a decade and a half.

The industry hasn’t finished in the top spot among the S&P 500’s 10 main groups since the third quarter of 1993, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Every other group has been first at least one quarter in this decade.

In this year’s first quarter, the S&P 500 Financials Index placed last with a 29 percent loss. The decline was more than double the 12 percent drop in the S&P 500.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows the industry index’s percentage changes in every quarter since 2000, along with its standing among the so-called Level 1 groups. Its highest position was second, reached in the third quarter of 2002 and again in the last three months of 2005.

Seventy-six of the group’s 80 stocks had second-quarter gains as of yesterday. Huntington Bancshares Inc. was first, as its share price almost doubled. Citigroup Inc. gained 59 percent in advance of today’s earnings report, which showed a profit for the first time in six quarters.

Financials were last or next to last in every quarter but one since the first three months of 2007, when the housing and credit markets started to unravel. The exception was the third quarter of 2008, when only health-care companies and makers of food, beverages and other consumer staples did better.