Cyclical stock

Quick definition

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Updated: Jan 20, 2023

Cyclical stocks are shares of a company that fluctuates in price in sync with economic cycles.  

Key details

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  • Cyclical stocks move in line with how the economy is fairing. In times of economic growth they will rise and in times of recession they will fall. 
  • Cyclical stocks are volatile and can generate high returns when the economy is doing well. 
  • The consumer discretionary sector includes cyclical stocks like Amazon, Tesla, and McDonalds.

What is a cyclical stock?

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Cyclical stocks are shares of a company that rises and falls in line with economic cycles. When the economy is performing well, cyclical stocks tend to rise and when it’s performing badly they tend to fall. Cyclical stocks usually fall under the  discretionary sector. These are companies selling products or services that are not essential and often the first thing consumers cut during difficult economic periods such as recessions. 

When an economy is strong consumers generally have more money to spend on discretionary purchases like travel, hospitality, and automobiles. Companies operating in these areas (and other consumer discretionaries) see profits increase which can be passed on to shareholders through dividends. Cyclical stocks may generate strong growth in a strong economic climate. 

The opposite is true for a difficult economy or recession. Consumers have less disposable income and cut back on their discretionary spending. People spend less money on hospitality, travel, and cars (and other discretionaries) resulting in poor cyclical stock performance, lower profits, and dividend cutbacks. 

Cyclical stock sectors

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Cyclical stocks operate in industries that are more impacted by changes in the economic cycle. Below are a few examples of cyclical sectors. 

Consumer discretionary

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The consumer discretionary sector is large and includes a range of other sectors within it. Consumer discretionary stocks are companies that sell products or services that are deemed ‘non essential’ or luxury goods. Car makers like Tesla, tech companies such as Apple, and fitness platform Peloton are all examples of consumer discretionary stocks. 

Airline and hospitality  

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The airline and hospitality industries are usually some of the hardest hit during economic downturns and benefit strongly when the economy is doing well. Both sectors are examples of non-durable consumer cyclical industries. Examples include Southwest airlines, Hyatt hotels, and Hilton. 

Financial services

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Companies in the financial sector like banks, have some of the strongest correlation with economic cycles. When the economy is strong, people and businesses are more likely to borrow money from banks and when it’s struggling, people and businesses will save rather than borrow. Examples of stocks in this sector include HSBC, Barclays, and JP Morgan. 

Pros and cons of cyclical stocks

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Cyclical stocks have advantages and disadvantages. Their main advantage is the potential for quick growth, although this only comes when an economy is strong. Their biggest disadvantage is their volatility and tendencies to fall rapidly when a difficult economic cycle like a recession takes hold. Investing in cyclical stocks is not as smooth sailing as defensive stocks, although the returns can be much more impressive if your timing is right. 

Where can I learn more?

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To learn more about cyclical stocks and the stock market in general you can visit our courses page. Alternatively check out our investing hub for the latest market news and analysis.

Sources & references
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Prash Raval
Financial Writer
When not researching stocks or trading, Prash can be found either on the golf course, walking his dog or teaching his son how to kick a... read more.