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Stock Market Sectors: What Are They And How Many Are There?

Updated: Mar. 31, 2023Written By: Kent ThuneReviewed By:

By learning about the various stock market sectors, investors can gain a greater understanding about diversification options and how the market is categorized. Find out how many sectors classifications there are in U.S. markets and what's important for investors to know about each of them.

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What Are Stock Market Sectors?

A stock sector is a collection of publicly-traded companies that work within the same general field of business—healthcare, energy, real estate, etc. The stocks in each sector, in turn, carry similar characteristics.

How Many Sectors Are in the Stock Market?

There are 11 stock market sectors, according to the Global Industry Classification Standard, or GICS, which is an industry taxonomy developed in 1999 by MSCI and Standard & Poor's. Within the entire GICS structure, there are 11 sectors, 24 industry groups, 69 industries and 158 sub-industries into which all major public companies are categorized.

The 11 GICS stock market sectors are as follows:

  1. Healthcare Sector
  2. Materials Sector
  3. Real Estate Sector
  4. Consumer Staples Sector
  5. Consumer Discretionary Sector
  6. Utilities Sector
  7. Energy Sector
  8. Industrials Sector
  9. Consumer Services Sector
  10. Financials Sector
  11. Technology Sector

11 Stock Market Sectors: List & Explanation

1. Healthcare Sector

The healthcare sector consists of stocks of companies involved in a range of health-related industries, including but not limited to:

  • Pharmaceutical producers
  • Medical devices
  • Healthcare service providers
  • Biotech stocks
  • Insurance companies

Examples of large healthcare companies include UnitedHealth Group (UNH) and Pfizer (PFE).

2. Materials Sector

The materials sector includes businesses involved in the manufacture of:

  • Construction materials, chemicals, paper, and glass
  • Companies specializing in making paper and forest products
  • Metals and mining companies

Some of the largest materials companies in the world include DuPont (DD) and The Sherwin-Williams Company (SHW).

3. Real Estate Sector

The real estate sector includes companies that develop or manage real estate property. This sector also includes real estate investment trusts (REITS), which are companies that purchase multiple income-producing assets, such as office buildings and hotels.

Some of the largest real estate companies include American Tower Corp. (AMT) and Simon Property Group (SPG).

Seeking Alpha analysis on REITS can be found here.

4. Consumer Staples Sector

The consumer staples sector includes companies involved in food, beverage, and tobacco, as well as producers of household goods and personal products. Since these are goods and services that consumers need, regardless of their current financial condition, consumer staples is considered to be a defensive sector (i.e. recession-proof industries).

The largest consumer staples companies include Walmart (WMT), Procter & Gamble (PG), and The Coca-Cola Company (KO).

5. Consumer Discretionary Sector

The consumer discretionary sector, also known as consumer cyclicals, includes companies involved in:

  • Retail
  • Ecommerce
  • Hotel
  • Luxury goods
  • Leisure and travel industries

In contrast to consumer staples, these goods and services are generally those that consumers don't necessarily need to have.

The largest consumer discretionary stocks include Amazon (AMZN), Tesla (TSLA), and Home Depot (HD).

6. Utilities Sector

The utilities sector includes companies that provide customers with utility services, such as water, electric, and gas. Since utilities are considered to be essentials for daily living, the utilities sector is also generally seen as a defensive sector.

Some of the largest utilities companies include NextEra Energy (NEE), Duke (DUK), and The Southern Company (SO).

7. Energy Sector

The energy sector comprises businesses involved in the exploration, production, refining, and sale of energy resources, including oil and natural gas, as well as companies that service these industries.

The energy sector includes some of the largest energy companies in the world, such as Exxon Mobil (XOM) and Chevron (CVX).

8. Industrials Sector

The industrials sector may include businesses that are involved in a wide range of industries, including:

  • Industrial machinery construction and engineering
  • Aerospace and defense
  • Electrical equipment

Some of the largest industrial companies in the world include Boeing (BA), Honeywell (HON), and Union Pacific (UNP).

9. Communication Services Sector

The communication services sector includes telecommunication service providers, such as:

  • Wireless telecom networks
  • Media and entertainment companies: older radio and television companies
  • Newer interactive media and internet companies

Examples of large communication services companies include Alphabet (GOOG) and AT&T (T).

10. Financials Sector

The financials sector includes a wide range of financial companies, including:

  • Investment banks
  • Commercial banks
  • Insurance companies
  • Financial service providers
  • Asset management companies
  • Financial brokers

The financial sector includes some of the largest financial companies in the world like Visa (V), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), and Bank of America (BAC).

11. Technology Sector

The technology sector includes multiple sub-sectors and industries, from semi-conductor producers to software and hardware providers, as well as internet stocks and cloud computing.

The sector includes companies with some of the largest market capitalizations in the world, such as Apple (AAPL), Microsoft (MSFT), and Amazon (AMZN).

How To Invest In Sectors of the Stock Market

Investors can gain exposure to market sectors in a number of ways, including:

  • Purchasing of individual stocks within a given sector
  • Buying specialized sector funds: exchange-traded funds ((ETFs)) or mutual funds that primarily hold stocks within a single sector.

Investors interested in exposure to all sectors can consider a broad-based mutual fund or ETF like the SPDR S&P 500 Trust ETF (SPY).

Bottom Line

There are 11 stock market sectors, as classified by GICS, which stands for Global Industry Classification Standard. These sectors include healthcare, materials, real estate, consumer staples, consumer discretionary, utilities, energy, industrials, consumer services, financials, and technology.

This article was written by

Kent Thune profile picture
Kent Thune, CFP®, is a fiduciary investment advisor specializing in tactical asset allocation and portfolio management with a focus on ETFs and sector investing. Mr. Thune has 25 years of wealth management experience and has navigated clients through four bear markets and some of the most challenging economic environments in history. As a writer, Kent's articles have been seen on multiple investing and finance websites, including Seeking Alpha, Kiplinger, MarketWatch, The Motley Fool, Yahoo Finance, and The Balance. Mr. Thune's registered investment advisory firm is headquartered in Hilton Head Island, SC where he serves clients all around the United States. When not writing or advising clients, Kent spends time with his wife and two sons, plays guitar, or works on his philosophy book that he plans to publish in 2024.

Analyst’s Disclosure: I/we have no stock, option or similar derivative position in any of the companies mentioned, and no plans to initiate any such positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Seeking Alpha's Disclosure: Past performance is no guarantee of future results. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. Any views or opinions expressed above may not reflect those of Seeking Alpha as a whole. Seeking Alpha is not a licensed securities dealer, broker or US investment adviser or investment bank. Our analysts are third party authors that include both professional investors and individual investors who may not be licensed or certified by any institute or regulatory body.

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Comments (8)

aterosin profile picture
@Kent Thune This is such a great article. I've heard words like 'cyclical' and 'sensitive' used within the sectors. How are those classified among the eleven? Gerry in Oregon
Kent Thune profile picture
@aterosin Thanks for reading! Cyclical stocks are the same as consumer discretionary stocks and the non-cyclical sector is synonymous with consumer staples.

I've written more recently on those two topics over at etf.com:

Consumer Staples (non-cyclical): www.etf.com/...
Consumer Discretionary (cyclical): www.etf.com/...
Where can I find a list of all the industry classifications and their subsectors?
Thank you for the summary. I noticed you placed AMZN in both Consumer Discretionary and Technology sectors as well. I know there is a thin line when it comes to AMZN as it operates in both areas, but I believe it should be part of only one of them (Consumer Discretionary).
Kent Thune profile picture
@AndreiOltei I agree. Many mega-cap companies operate in multiple industries (i.e., AAPL, MSFT) but as an investor, I generally categorize them in their primary industry, while keeping in mind their secondary. Thanks for the comment!
Paper_stax profile picture
@AndreiOltei I concur
Mauricio91 profile picture
@Kent Thune 9. Consumer Services Sector
Is written later in the article as:
9. Communication Services Sector
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