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S&P winners and losers
The following is a list of the five biggest gainers and the five biggest losers in the Standard & Poor's 500 index in 2012.
PulteGroup. Signs that a housing market rebound is under way boosted this home builder's stock 182 percent.
Sprint Nextel. The wireless carrier sold a 70 percent stake to Japanese cellphone company Softbank Corp. for $20.1 billion. The stock jumped 139 percent.
Whirlpool. Surging profits at the Benton Harbor, Mich.-based appliance maker sent its stock surging 110 percent.
Expedia. Profits rose sharply at the online travel agency and the company paid a special dividend. Expedia gained 107 percent.
Bank of America. A poster child of the financial excesses of the last decade, the bank accelerated a cost-cutting plan and is gradually reducing the amount of cash it set aside to cover bad loans. The stock gained 106 percent.
Apollo Group. The for-profit education company behind the University of Phoenix got a 'D' from investors. Slumping enrollments and tighter regulatory scrutiny pushed the stock down 62 percent.
Advanced Micro Devices. Sales of AMD's chips declined along with falling PC sales as consumers moved to tablets and smartphones. Its stock fell 57 percent.
Best Buy. The consumer-electronics retailer struggled to hold onto market share in the face of tough competition from discounters and online retailers. Founder Richard Schulze wants to buy the company back. The stock dropped 52 percent.
Hewlett-Packard. Where to start? The fallout from a disastrous acquisition combined with a faltering PC and printer business hit the stock hard. H-P slumped 47 percent.
J.C. Penney. The retailer's new strategy of eliminating sales failed miserably, alienating old customers and failing to lure new ones. The stock dropped 45 percent.
Facebook. The most highly anticipated initial public offering in years was a flop. Worries about the social networking company's business model pushed the shares down 32 percent.
Zynga. The online games company behind "Farmville" and "CityVille" slumped. Waning demand for some of its titles and the departure of key managers helped push its stock down 75 percent.
Netflix. The video streaming and DVD rental company had a wild ride in 2012, closing as low as $53 in September as it struggled to attract new subscribers and its earnings slumped. It went as high as $129 in February. The stock was on track to end 2012 with a gain of 29 percent at about $90 after billionaire investor Carl Icahn built a 10 percent stake in the company.
Home Depot. The home improvement retailer was also a beneficiary of the nascent housing market recovery, rising 46 percent. That made it the second-best stock among the 30 in the Dow Jones industrial average, behind Bank of America.
Herbalife. The seller of supplements and weight loss products was pummeled after the CEO of a hedge fund said the company is a pyramid scheme. The stock fell 42 percent.
Apple. The maker of iPhones and iPads was probably the most watched stock of the year. After overtaking Exxon Mobil as the most valuable U.S. company, the technology giant's stock hit a record $702.10 in September before falling back to end the year 26 percent higher at about $511.
NEW YORK - It may be a big if, but assuming Washington lawmakers can get past the “fiscal cliff,” many analysts say that the outlook for stocks next year is good, as a recovering housing market and an improving jobs outlook helps the economy maintain a slow but steady recovery.
Reasonable returns in 2013 would send the S&P 500 toward, and possibly past, its record close of 1,565 reached in October 2007.
A midyear rally in 2012 pushed stocks to their highest level in more than four years. The Standard & Poor’s 500 and the Dow Jones industrial average are on track for strong gains in 2012. Those advances came despite uncertainty about the outcome of the presidential election and bouts of turmoil in Europe, where policymakers finally appear to be getting a grip on the region’s debt crisis.
“As you remove little bits of uncertainty, investors can then once again return to focusing on the fundamentals,” said Joseph Tanious, a global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds. “Corporate America is actually doing quite well.”
Assuming a budget deal is reached in a reasonable amount of time, investors will be more comfortable owning stocks in 2013, allowing valuations to rise, Tanious said.
The stock market will also likely face less drag from the European debt crisis this year, said Steven Bulko, the chief investment officer at Lombard Odier Investment Managers. While policymakers in Europe have yet to come up with a comprehensive solution to the region’s woes, they appear to have a better handle on the region’s problems than they have for quite some time.
Not all investors are as sanguine about the prospects for 2013.
The rally in stocks in 2012 had less to do with company earnings and the economy and more to do with monetary stimulus from the Federal Reserve and other central banks around the world, said David Wright, a managing director and co-founder at Sierra Investment Management in Santa Monica, Calif.