To understand the Nasdaq and Nasdaq 100, it is important to look at the individual parts. These two indices can be broken down into four key industry groups: semiconductors (SMH), networking (IGN), software (SWH) and internet (HHH). While retail, telecom, hardware, biotech and other industry groups certainly play a part, these four are the key drivers and the first place to look for signs of weakness or strength.

The same approach works for the S&P 500. This index can be broken down into six key sectors: Finance (XLF), HealthCare (XLV), Consumer Discretionary (XLY), Information Technology (XLK), Industrials (XLI) and Consumer Staples (XLP). Even though Industrials and Consumer Staples each make up over 10% of the index, I tend to focus on the other four sectors, which make up over 60% of the index when combined.

In particular, the retail group is a major influence on the Consumer Discretionary sector and retail spending drives ~2/3 of GDP. As it name implies, the Consumer Discretionary sector represents cyclical stocks and these are more prone to economic fluctuations than the other sectors. This makes it an important component of the S&P 500. And finally, notice that Energy, Materials and Utilities (combined) account for less than 15% of the index. However, their influence is growing.

Chip Anderson
About the author: is the founder and president of He founded the company after working as a Windows developer and corporate consultant at Microsoft from 1987 to 1997. Since 1999, Chip has guided the growth and development of into a trusted financial enterprise and highly-valued resource in the industry. In this blog, Chip shares his tips and tricks on how to maximize the tools and resources available at, and provides updates about new features or additions to the site. Learn More
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