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Four safe -- safer -- sectors

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Some sectors have started to find some balance, even while others continue their plummet The New York Times reports. The paper quotes Jeffrey N. Kleintop, chief market strategist at LPL Financial in Boston: “The market is starting to sort between the winners and the losers, rather than pushing everything down as if it were a monolithic asset,” he says.

Health care funds, long considered resistant to desperate economic times, rose 3 percent, and mutual funds rose 2 percent, the paper writes. Energy and utilities funds fell 1 percent and 3 percent, respectively, but still beat the over 8 percent decline for Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index this year.

What do those sectors have in common? From the Times:

“They all enjoyed year-over-year profit gains in 2008. Though overall earnings for companies in the S.& P. 500 contracted by an estimated 12 percent last year, energy and health care earnings grew 21 percent and 7 percent, respectively, according to consensus estimates compiled by Thomson Financial. Profits among utilities in the S.& P. 500 grew an estimated 3 percent, while technology company earnings expanded by 2 percent in 2008.”