Stock Market Sector Classifications

There are three competing systems for classifying stocks into sectors and industries: the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS), the Industrial Classification Benchmark (ICB), and Morningstar's stock sector structure. For the most part, the systems are functionally equivalent, but unfortunately the terminology is different.

ICB Classification System

The Industry Classification Benchmark or ICB, was developed by Dow Jones and FTSE, and is used by the NASDAQ and New York Stock Exchanges. The ICB structure consists of 10 industries, 19 supersectors, 41 sectors and 114 subsectors. So the highest level is an "industry". The ICB system is used by most Dow Jones and FTSE indexes.

The ten industries are:

GICS Classification System

The Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS) was developed in 1999 by MSCI and Standard & Poor's for use by the global financial community. The GICS structure consists of 11 sectors, 24 industry groups, 68 industries and 157 sub-industries. The highest level is a "sector", unlike with the ICB system, where the highest level is an "industry". GICS is used as a basis for S&P and MSCI financial market indexes. Originally, the GICS system had 10 sectors, but in 2016, real estate was turned into its own sector rather than being part of the financials sector.

The eleven sectors are:

Note that prior to September 2018, the "Communication Services" sector of the GICS was named the Telecommunication Services sector. Previously, the Telecommunication Services sector was pretty small. As part of the renaming, the sector was expanded to include companies that facilitate communication and offer related content and information through various media.

The main differences between "industries" with the ICB system and "sectors" with the GICS system are 1) the GICS breaks out real estate as its own sector; and 2) the GICS and ICB systems treat consumer stocks differently. The ICB system classifies consumer stocks between "consumer goods" and "consumer services", whereas the GICS system classifies them as as either "consumer staples" or "consumer discretionary".

Morningstar Stock Sector Structure

The Morningstar stock sector structure consists of 11 sectors (the highest level in their system is also a "sector"). Underneath the 11 sectors, Morningstar uses 150 industries.

The eleven sectors are:

Our Sectors

At, we use the GICS terminology to classify securities. So our highest level of grouping is a "sector". Underneath sectors, we use the terminology of an "industry". We are actually using Morningstar's industry system, in which all stocks are classified into one of 150 industries - see our list of industries. So in our website, every stock is classified into one of the 150 Morningstar industries and then into one of the 11 GICS sectors. We know that seems odd, but we do that for practical purposes - our data providers just happen to give us the most consistent data doing it that way.

Sector Performance Varies

In any given year, the different sectors of the stock market can have significantly different performance. The different sectors also act differently during different economic conditions and cycles. So stock market investors have always paid significant attention to sector performance. You can use this tool on our website to analyze S&P 500 sector performance.

There are a handful of ETFs that attempt to dynamically invest in those sectors of the stock market that are currently performing well. See our discussion of sector rotation ETFs.

S&P 500 Sector ETFs

State Street (SPDRs) has a line of ETFs that follow indexes that split the stocks in the S&P 500 into the 11 stock market sectors of the GICS system. These sector ETFs are heavily traded:

ETF Description Average Volume 1 Year 3 Years Actions
SPYSPDR S&P 500 ETF108,815,1124.61%28.61%Analyze
XLBMaterials Select Sector SPDR ETF7,342,119-1.21%6.81%Analyze
XLCCommunication Services Select Sector SPDR ETF4,068,76110.48%0.00%Analyze
XLEEnergy Select Sector SPDR ETF30,780,655-40.89%-41.75%Analyze
XLFFinancial Select Sector SPDR ETF92,406,456-18.02%-7.67%Analyze
XLIIndustrial Select Sector SPDR ETF15,134,706-10.26%1.24%Analyze
XLKTechnology Select Sector SPDR ETF11,964,12732.68%93.58%Analyze
XLPConsumer Staples Select Sector SPDR ETF10,851,011-0.82%8.15%Analyze
XLREReal Estate Select Sector SPDR ETF4,996,450-5.83%13.03%Analyze
XLUUtilities Select Sector SPDR ETF18,475,507-4.72%12.53%Analyze
XLVHealthcare Select Sector SPDR ETF12,366,3489.18%28.90%Analyze
XLYConsumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR ETF4,639,9316.28%46.48%Analyze

Small Cap Sector ETFs

Powershares has a line of ETFs that follow indexes that split small cap stocks into the 11 stock market sectors of the GICS system. This list only includes 9 sector ETFs because real estate is included with the financials sector and telecommunications is included with utilities.

ETF Description Average Volume 1 Year 3 Years Actions
IJRiShares Core S&P Small-Cap ETF5,978,148-13.11%-2.43%Analyze
PSCCS&P SmallCap 600 Consumer Staples Sector ETF4,290-1.67%7.86%Analyze
PSCDS&P SmallCap 600 Consumer Discretionary Sector ETF8,148-5.17%-0.49%Analyze
PSCES&P SmallCap 600 Energy Sector ETF120,240-61.90%-72.90%Analyze
PSCFS&P SmallCap 600 Financials Sector ETF4,374-29.60%-24.74%Analyze
PSCHInvesco S&P SmallCap Health Care ETF10,9679.28%44.82%Analyze
PSCIS&P SmallCap 600 Industrials Sector ETF3,003-11.70%2.90%Analyze
PSCMS&P SmallCap 600 Materials Sector ETF4,718-8.81%-16.16%Analyze
PSCTS&P SmallCap 600 Information Technology Sector ETF7,9476.79%14.51%Analyze
PSCUS&P SmallCap 600 Utilities Sector ETF2,683-5.90%-8.03%Analyze

Total Market Sector ETFs

Fidelity has a line of ETFs that follow indexes that split the entire stock market into the 11 stock market sectors of the GICS system. These are based on MSCI's "investable market indexes" or IMI indexes. IMI indexes include large, mid and small cap stocks.

ETF Description Average Volume 1 Year 3 Years Actions
FCOMFidelity MSCI Telecom Svcs ETF141,8496.53%14.13%Analyze
FDISFidelity MSCI Consumer Discretionary ETF173,92414.07%52.37%Analyze
FENYFidelity MSCI Energy Index ETF1,305,126-42.42%-44.66%Analyze
FHLCFidelity MSCI Health Care Index ETF210,28212.01%32.72%Analyze
FIDUFidelity MSCI Industrials Index ETF158,492-9.09%3.51%Analyze
FMATFidelity MSCI Materials Index ETF92,928-4.15%-0.31%Analyze
FNCLFidelity MSCI Financials Index ETF251,233-19.55%-10.84%Analyze
FRELFidelity MSCI Real Estate Index ETF615,232-11.16%0.46%Analyze
FSTAFidelity MSCI Consumer Staples Index ETF237,929-1.47%6.95%Analyze
FTECFidelity MSCI Information Technology ETF519,37431.09%95.42%Analyze
FUTYFidelity MSCI Utilities Index ETF233,737-6.48%11.82%Analyze

All data is a live query from our database. The wording was last updated: 04/14/2020.

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