How every asset class, currency and S&P 500 sector performed in 2021


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

It was another busy year – and while it might not quite compare to the pandemonium of 2020, it was still packed with market-moving events such as:

  • The highly anticipated introduction of COVID-19 vaccines
  • Supply chain disruptions and ongoing semiconductor shortages
  • Record-breaking economic stimulus spending and debt accumulation by governments around the world
  • The emergence of new worrying variants like Delta and Omicron
  • Great political excitement and the Capitol Riots
  • Increasing evidence of (not temporary) inflation

Let’s take a look at which sectors were successful during the twists and turns of 2021 – and which could not stand the volatility.

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Winners and losers in 2021 by sector

Our visualization today uses an expanded screenshot of the FinViz Treemap, which shows the final numbers of the most important US-listed companies, sorted by sector and industry.

Here are the big beneficiaries of the past year, along with those who have stayed behind.

The winners

1. Great technology

In the past few years, it came as no surprise that Big Tech was high on the list. In 2021, Alphabet continued its rift, rising 65% to hit one $ 2 trillion Market capitalization.

Microsoft ended the year with 51%, Apple with 34% and even Meta Platforms (née Facebook) achieved double-digit growth. Only Amazon saw single-digit growth in 2021, up 2.4%.

2. Semiconductors

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

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

3. Oil and gas exploration and production

2020 was a radical change for oil prices, with futures even slipping into negative territory at times. However, the last year was much more positive for the energy industry.

WTI price started the year below $ 50 a barrel but ended the year at $ 75 a barrel – a fluctuation that makes a big difference in the economics of any barrel.

4. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

It was one of the biggest years for REITs in decades, with the FTSE Nareit All Equity REITs Index posting its best performance since 1976.

Those who know REITs know that returns vary around Real estate sectorand that remains the case here as well. Industrial REITs in particular – and especially self-storage REITs – performed better. Extra Space Storage, a REIT that invests in self-storage units, closed the year at 96% and is the perfect example of that.

5. Asset management

With record-low interest rates and ongoing upheaval from COVID-19, it provides a perfect stage for opportunistic private equity firms.

The wealth management industry as a whole did well in 2021, but PE firms like Blackstone and KKR in particular took advantage of the benefits, posting gains of 99% and 84%, respectively.

Banking, Retail, Home Improvement, Building Materials, Health Plans, Engineering, and Construction

The losers

1. Precious metal miners

Inflation picked up speed in 2021, and a common beneficiary of this is the precious metals sector.

However, this has not been the case for the past 12 months. Both gold and silver ended the year with negative returns, which hurt the precious metal miners.

2. Chinese e-commerce

Beijing has been cracking down on China’s domestic tech sector recently, and this has had an impact on companies like Pinduoduo, Alibaba, Baidu and, which have seen their share prices collapse collectively.

All were down double digits, but Pinduoduo – the largest agriculture-centric technology platform in China – saw the greatest resistance, down over 67% over the year.

3. Solar company

As expected, the solar systems in the USA are chugging at record speed.

However, both regulatory uncertainty and supply chain problems have slowed share prices in the short term. Because of this, companies like Sunrun, a private solar panel company, saw their share performance decline 51% in 2021.

4. Internet content and information

Big Tech continued to flourish, but other technology-enabled content and information companies had tougher years. One example of this is Zillow, who closed the doors of his home flip operation after suffering losses from. had ascertained $ 500 million.

Zillow stock is down 54% year over year, laying off a quarter of the workforce.

5. Great credit

It’s been a mediocre year for the big credit card companies like Visa and Mastercard, both of which stagnated in terms of stock market performance. Meanwhile, PayPal fell 19%.

According to billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya, 2022 couldn’t be better. A few days ago, he predicted that both Visa and Mastercard would accept the largest business failures in the coming year.


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