Understanding Cyclicals: How They Impact the Stock Market

Cyclicals are stocks that are highly influenced by the business cycle. These stocks tend to perform well during periods of economic expansion and perform poorly during periods of economic downturn. Understanding cyclicals is crucial for investors and traders as it allows them to better navigate the stock market. In this article, we will delve into the concept of cyclicals, how they impact the stock market, and provide insights on how to identify and trade cyclicals effectively.

What are Cyclicals?

Cyclicals, also known as cyclical stocks, are companies whose performance is closely tied to the overall state of the economy. These stocks belong to sectors that are highly sensitive to changes in economic conditions such as consumer discretionary, industrials, materials, and technology. Examples of cyclical companies include automobile manufacturers, airlines, construction companies, and luxury goods retailers.

Unlike defensive stocks, which tend to perform well in all economic conditions, cyclicals experience more volatility and tend to be more influenced by the business cycle. When the economy is booming and consumer spending is high, cyclicals thrive as demand for their products and services increases. Conversely, during economic downturns, when consumer spending decreases, cyclicals typically struggle.

How Cyclicals Impact the Stock Market

Cyclicals play a significant role in driving the overall performance of the stock market. During periods of economic expansion, cyclicals tend to outperform the broader market, pushing stock indices higher. This is because investors anticipate strong growth in cyclicals' revenues and earnings as economic conditions improve.

However, when economic conditions deteriorate, cyclicals are often hit hard. The stock prices of cyclical companies tend to decline as investors worry about reduced consumer spending and lower corporate profits. This can lead to a broader market decline, as cyclicals make up a significant portion of major stock market indices.

Understanding the impact of cyclicals on the stock market is essential for investors and traders. It allows them to gauge the overall health of the economy and make informed investment decisions. By closely monitoring the performance of cyclicals, investors can gain insights into the current stage of the business cycle and adjust their portfolios accordingly.

Identifying Cyclicals

Identifying cyclicals in the stock market can be done by analyzing the companies' business models, financial statements, and industry trends. Some key indicators to look for when identifying cyclicals include:

1. Revenue and Earnings Volatility: Cyclicals often experience significant fluctuations in their revenue and earnings. In boom times, revenue and earnings tend to soar, while in downturns, they can plummet. Analyzing a company's historical financial performance can provide insights into its cyclical nature.

2. Sensitivity to Economic Indicators: Cyclicals are heavily influenced by economic indicators such as GDP growth, consumer spending, and interest rates. Companies in cyclical sectors tend to see their fortunes rise and fall with these indicators. Monitoring economic data and understanding its impact on specific sectors can help identify cyclicals.

3. Sector and Industry Analysis: Cyclicals are typically found in sectors that are highly sensitive to the business cycle, such as consumer discretionary, industrials, materials, and technology. Analyzing the trends and performance of these sectors can help identify potential cyclical stocks.

4. Macroeconomic Outlook: Keeping an eye on the overall macroeconomic outlook can provide insights into the potential direction of cyclicals. Economic indicators, such as unemployment rates, inflation, and consumer confidence, can signal whether the economy is in an expansionary or contractionary phase.

Trading Cyclicals

Trading cyclicals requires careful analysis and a deep understanding of the underlying economic factors influencing these stocks. Here are some strategies to consider when trading cyclicals:

1. Timing the Business Cycle: Cyclicals tend to perform best during the early and late stages of the business cycle. During the early stage, known as the recovery phase, cyclicals start to rebound as economic conditions improve. During the late stage, known as the expansion phase, cyclicals benefit from robust economic growth. Traders can use economic indicators and technical analysis to identify these stages and time their trades accordingly.

2. Follow Sector Rotation: Sector rotation refers to the shifting of investor preference from one sector to another based on the current stage of the business cycle. By monitoring which sectors are performing well during different phases of the cycle, traders can position themselves in the right cyclicals for maximum returns.

3. Technical Analysis: Utilizing technical analysis tools and indicators can help traders identify trends, support, and resistance levels in cyclical stocks. This can assist in timing entry and exit points, as well as determining stop-loss levels to manage risk.


Understanding cyclicals and their impact on the stock market is crucial for investors and traders. These stocks play a significant role in driving market performance and can provide valuable insights into the overall health of the economy. By identifying and trading cyclicals effectively, investors can capitalize on the opportunities presented by the business cycle. Whether you're a long-term investor or a short-term trader, incorporating cyclicals into your investment strategy can enhance your returns and help navigate the ever-changing dynamics of the stock market.

24 October 2023
Written by John Roche