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Goldman found a way to invest around rising wages, and it is beating the market

Goldman Sachs says stocks of companies with low labor costs are outperforming the overall market, and the strategy could pick up steam as wages rise.

In a note to clients Friday, Goldman said a basket of stocks representing companies with low U.S. labor costs is up 20 percent this year, beating the nearly 14 percent gain in the S&P 500. Stocks in the low labor cost basket include Nike, Netflix, MetLife, Apple and Boeing.

The note was released shortly after the Bureau of Labor Statistics said wages grew at an annualized rate of 2.9 percent last month, the highest since 2009. The sharp rise in wages also lifted the odds of a December Federal Reserve interest rate hike, as the central bank sees it as a sign of rising inflation.

Goldman’s 49-stock basket has a much lower labor cost as a percentage of revenue overall, 3 percent, compared with 11 percent for the broader S&P 500.

Investors “appear to be rewarding firms less exposed to rising wages,” said David Kostin, chief U.S. equity strategist at Goldman Sachs, in the note. Apple’s labor costs are 2 percent of revenue, according to Goldman’s research, while MetLife’s are 4 percent. Apple shares are up 35 percent this year, and MetLife’s have risen 10.2 percent.

Goldman’s Kostin also pointed out that “qualitative measures, such as the Fed Beige Book, reference tight labor markets and wage pressures.”

Several of the companies in Goldman’s basket are in information technology, implying the sector could see further gains this year. Tech has been on fire in 2017, rising almost 28 percent and easily outperforming the broader market.


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