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The best-performing sector of the American stock market this year, bar energy, has been the "consumer discretionary" category — the companies that sell the things we like to buy but don't have to buy.

Expand chart
Data: FactSet; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

The big picture: It's also been one of the main drivers of the market as a whole. While the broad stock market is up a very impressive 332% from its 2009 lows, consumer discretionary stocks are up a stunning 630%.

  • To be sure: A large chunk of that growth is thanks to just two stocks: Amazon and Netflix. But it's worth pausing to appreciate that two of the highest-flying technology stocks (three, if you include Apple) get most of their revenues by selling their products directly to consumers. That certainly wasn't the case in the days of the Wintel duopoly of Microsoft and Intel.
  • Neither Amazon Prime nor Netflix is a necessity in life. But both of them have already passed 100 million paying subscribers. (For scale: There are about 125 million households in the U.S.)

The bottom line: We're in a virtuous cycle, where record-low unemployment (just 3.7%, in September) feeds into job security, heightened consumer confidence and higher spending. In turn, that drives corporate growth in profits and headcount.

  • None of this is reliant on low interest rates. The healthy economy means that the Fed will keep on hiking, as a glance at the two-year bond yield will attest. Long bond yields, too, are hitting five-year highs. It almost feels like we're back to normal.

Go deeper

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
36 mins ago - Economy & Business

The wealthy exodus from superstar cities

Pandemic-induced remote work is chipping away at a recent trend of Americans staying put — but only for the well-off.

Why it matters: Telework has been lauded as a geographic equalizer, allowing talented people from all over the country to go for jobs in superstar coastal metros. But the benefits have largely been limited to wealthier workers — so far.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: The end of quarantine — CDC updates guidance on airborne COVID-19.
  2. Politics: Oklahoma secures $2.6 million refund for hydroxychloroquine purchase — Why Biden's latest vaccine goal is his hardest yet.
  3. Vaccines: Pfizer begins application for full FDA approval of COVID-19 vaccine — Moderna says its COVID booster shot shows promise against variants.
  4. Economy: U.S. adds just 266,000 jobs in April, far below expectations.
  5. World: Asia faces massive new COVID surge.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
3 hours ago - Health

States request fewer coronavirus vaccines as demand plummets

A pharmacy student preparing a coronavirus vaccine in Angeles, California, on May 7. Photo: Frederic Brown/AFP via Getty Images

States are requesting fewer doses of the coronavirus vaccine as demand for the shots plummets, according to AP.

Why it matters: Over half of all American adults have now gotten at least one shot of a vaccine, and 42% of adults are fully vaccinated. But administering more vaccines may become more difficult because adults who are enthusiastic about getting vaccinated have likely already received at least one dose.