By now, we all know that Wall Street is shattered this year, with the S&P 500 losing about 13% (as of Dec 2, 2022). High inflation, rising rates, geopolitical tensions, supply-chain woes due to the zero-Covid policy in China made matters most difficult this year.
As of Dec 2, 2022, 111 stocks hit a new 52-week high on Nasdaq, while 130 stocks hit a low. The figure for 52-week-high-hitting companies on NYSE was 90 and low-hitting companies was 44, per WSJ. When we look at the ETF world, data looks stricter. Only two sectors and their two ETFs managed to ride to the 52-week high spots. This shows that those sectors have the strength to stay afloat in the current economic turmoil.
Below, we highlight those two sectors and their ETFs that have been hovering around their 52-week highs.
Biotech & Pharma
Virtus Lifesci Biotech Products ETF BBP
Nasdaq Pharmaceuticals ETF FTXH
With the pandemic being largely managed, thanks to the rollout of vaccines in record time, the biotech sector’s focus has shifted to new drug approvals, label expansion of existing drugs and acquisitions. Oncolytics ONCY surged 20.5% on Dec 1 after management announced that the FDA granted the second fast-track designation to its lead pipeline drug, pelareorep, in pancreatic cancer indication. Shares of Biogen (BIIB) too are hovering around a 52-week high due to the successful late-stage clinical trial for early Alzheimer's disease.
Vertex Pharmaceuticals VRTX, too, is in a bright spot. Earlier in November, the FDA began a rolling review of exa-cel — a gene therapy for the treatment of transfusion-dependent beta-thalassemia and severe sickle cell disease that Vertex is developing in partnership with CRISPR Therapeutics. Vertex is also enrolling patients burdened by a rare kidney disorder into a mid-stage clinical trial. Plus, Pfizer (PFE) and AstraZeneca (AZN) inked a new M&A deal. Eli Lilly’s (LLY) met Alzheimer's study goal.
Meanwhile, the legal marijuana market has ballooned lately, resulting in a multibillion-dollar business. President Joe Biden has officially signed a marijuana research bill into law. It marked history as it was the first piece of standalone federal cannabis reform legislation in U.S. history, reported Marijuana Moment, as quoted on Benzinga. The legal (which includes medical form) marijuana market is expected to witnessed a CAGR of 26.5% during 2023-2032, per digitaljournal.com.
All these indicate that the sector is advancing with new deals and inventions. Plus, the sector’s non-cyclical nature makes it important even amid global growth slowdown.
Aerospace & Defense
US Aerospace & Defense iShares ETF ITA
Aerospace & Defense Invesco ETF PPA
Aerospace and defense stocks have rallied lately with rising geopolitical tensions. The Russia-Ukraine war is unlikely to end soon, North Korean saber rattling has been on the rise, and China-Taiwan tensions have flared up since President Xi secured a third term in office.
Rising geopolitical tensions could result in increased defense spending by the United States and its European allies as they try to counter the military ambitions of China and Russia. Though the midterm elections resulted in split control of Congress, leading to legislative gridlock, increasing defense spending is one of the very few areas that the two parties agree on.
Expansionary budgetary amendments adopted by the U.S. government for defense in recent times have acted as a major tailwind. In July 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to pave the way for the defense budget to exceed $800 billion next year, authorizing $37 billion in spending on top of the record $773 billion proposed by President Joe Biden.
The sector has been beating the S&P 500 consistently this year. Aerospace – Defense sector has returned 5.4% this year (as of Dec 2, 2022) versus a decline of 13.3% in the S&P 500.
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