Male vs. Female Stocks: Who's Winning?

In May I blogged about BW colleague Peter Coy’s fascinating look at how the U.S. economic slowdown is hurting men much more than women. He pointed out that adult women had gained almost 300,000 jobs since November, while men had lost 700,000 jobs.

“You might even say American men are in recession, and American women are not,” Coy wrote. “What’s going on? Simply put, men have the misfortune of being concentrated in the two sectors that are doing the worst: manufacturing and construction. Women are concentrated in sectors that are still growing, such as education and health care.”

What are the investing implications of this, I wondered? Would “male” stocks like Smith & Wesson (swhc) and Cabela’s (cab) suffer, while “female” stocks like Avon Products (avp), Estee Lauder (el) and Ann Taylor Stores (ann) do well?

Another colleague, Suzanne Woolley, suggested I revisit the issue. “It could be fun to keep track of which ‘gender’ is winning,” she said.

Neither gender is winning exactly. All five stocks are way down since May, reflecting the broad weakness in the consumer discretionary space. Consumers are stressed out by high gas prices and a weak economy, so not surprisingly they don’t have the cash to pamper themselves.

But, judging by the stock prices, men are indeed cutting back spending more than women. Smith & Wesson is off 29% and Cabela’s has plunged 30% since May. On the female side, Avon is down 11%, Estee Lauder has fallen 4% and Ann Taylor is off 7% (though it somehow plunged more than 8% on July 10 alone — wow.)

My five stocks are a small selection. If only there was a more scientific way to track this trend. Maybe I should try to convince our corporate cousins at Standard & Poor’s to put together a male stock index and a female stock index, full of companies that aim their marketing and sales effort at one gender. OK, dumb idea.

But do you have any suggestions of other stocks that are particularly male or female? Or do you think the whole idea is sexist? I’d love to hear your comments.

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