The Australian materials sector (largely comprising our major miners) has performed relatively well so far this year due to firmer commodity prices and a relatively benign United States interest rate outlook. Although valuations in the sector appear high, they might be justified if commodity prices hold up near current levels and miners are able to keep a tight rein on costs. As seen in the chart below, the materials sector has had a tumultuous ride over the past decade thanks to the boom and bust in the commodity price cycle. As has already been evident several times over recent years, the sector has attempted another feisty comeback so far this year. From end January to latest data on 20 September, the materials sector is up around 35% in price terms, compared to a gain of only 5.8% for the S&P/ASX 200 Index.