In September, the basket stocks of Utilities was leading while the materials remains the loser.
For the Q3 2011, Utilities and the materials were the leading and lagging sectors respectively.
YTD and in the past 1 year , Financials were leading the stock market down while Utilities lead the sectors.
I suggest you look at the figure below to analyze which sectors lead the economic cycles and understand the current situation.
If it is not obvious to you, let me explain. The Utilities lead the sectors in the downtrending economic cycles - beginning or in the middle of recessions. You might be wondering what I am talking about while the GDP still shows growth. NBER lags by atleast 2 or 3 quarters, they come back and revise the calls as far as quarters upto 1 year. It is very well possible that, in future revisions, NBER may come and say we have been in recession since Quarter 2 of 2011. Or this quarter may be the beginning of the recession.