Oct 1 2011-Utilities have emerged as the year's strongest sector. The chart below shows the Utilities Sector SPDR (XLU) trading near a new 52-week high while the S&P 500 (solid line) is closer to a new lows. The rising XLU:SPX relative strength ratio (below chart) also shows the superior performance of utilities this year. That's not surprising since utilities are a defensive stock group that usually attracts money during a market downturn (as do staples and healthcare). But there's another dynamic driving money into utilities -- falling bond yields. The falling green line shows the 10-Year T-Note Yield (TNX) falling all year. With bond yields having fallen below 2% for the first time in 60 years, the utilities' yield of 4.3% looks pretty attractive. Falling bond yields are also symptomatic of economic weakness which is bad for the rest of the stock market. In a climate of a weak stock market and falling bond yields, utilities offer a relatively safe haven. People still have to use electricity in good times and bad. And, as I suggested a couple of weeks ago, defensive stocks do better when the VIX is rising.