By Dhirendra Tripathi and Daniel Shvartsman
Investing.com – Starting the year just under $49 a barrel, U.S. crude prices rose to a high of $85.41 in October and is poised to finish with its best year since 2009. That pretty much decided which sector and companies was going to top S&P 500.
Oil and gas explorer Devon Energy (NYSE: DVN ) is the best performing S&P 500 stock S&P 500 in the year through December 30, as soaring sales and profits, helped by booming economies, buybacks and higher dividends, boosted returns to over 180%. Marathon Oil (NYSE: MRO ) comes in second but still up with gains of more than 145%. Diamondback Energy (NASDAQ: FANG ), at eighth spot but still managing to more than double, comes in as the third energy stock among top 10 winners in S&P 500.
Fortinet (NASDAQ: FTNT ) is the third on the podium with more than 142% gains, successfully riding both product and services to meet needs for cybersecurity solutions in a Cloud environment where everything -- from studies to shopping – has gone digital.
And then there’s Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA ) at fourth position – up around 141% -- riding on the huge success of its life-saving mRNA Covid-vaccine and the ongoing demand for vaccinations worldwide.
Investors rewarded Ford for its pivot to electric vehicles, best exemplified by the demand for its electric truck F-150 Lightning. The stock ended the year as the fifth best in the index. This week, its market cap topped General Motors' (NYSE: GM ) for the first time since 2016.
Nvidia (NASDAQ: NVDA ), a favorite of most analysts, is also up there with gains of nearly 127% as demand for its chips that power graphics in laptops and go into Cloud servers refuses to abate.
Casino-owner and sports-betting company Penn National Gaming (NASDAQ: PENN ) is the worst performing S&P 500 stock this year. It briefly rode the wave of meme stocks and retail investor enthusiasm for both sports betting and David Portnoy, founder of Penn subsidiary Barstool Sports and a face of the irrational exuberance in the beginning of 2021, but lost around 41 % of its value as the pandemic raged and the business continued to suffer.
Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: LVS ) and Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ: WYNN ) were the other sector laggards, hit by the pandemic and the clampdown on casinos in Macao by the Chinese authorities. They fell around 37% and 24%, respectively, this year, "good" for second worst and eighth worst performer on the index.
Activision (NASDAQ: ATVI ) was another big loser as a series of allegations of sexual misconduct by senior staff and charges of the company ignoring the behavior rattled investors. Delay in releases of some popular video games made it worse. The pandemic hit the video games publishers in many ways. Not only were developers and creative people in short supply, shortage of chips at console-makers Sony (NYSE: SONY ) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) also hurt business. Activision ended down 27% for the year, 6th worst.
Global Payments Inc (NYSE: GPN ) was the 3rd biggest loser, down 37%, amidst fears of disruption in the payments space, and Fidelity National Information Services Inc (NYSE: FIS ) suffered from the same pressure, down 22% for the year. Interestingly, the two held unsuccessful merger talks at the end of 2020, suggesting they saw the challenges ahead. MarketAxess Holdings Inc (NASDAQ: MKTX ) saw a more direct type of challenge to its electronic bond-trading platform business, as Tradeweb Markets Inc (NASDAQ: TW ) took share over the course of the year, bringing MarketAxess's shares down 27%, 5th worst in the index.
Viatris Inc (NASDAQ: VTRS ) struggled in its first full year as a public company, as the generic drug maker merged from Mylan and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE )'s spin-off UpJohn dropped 28%. Citrix Systems Inc (NASDAQ: CTXS ) ended up down 26%, 7th on this list, even with a late-year pop on reports that Elliott Management and Vista Equity might be plotting a buyout of the networking systems company. IPG Photonics Corporation (NASDAQ: IPGP ) rounds out the list, down 23%, as the laser maker and its sector were among the rare losers in the semiconductor and tech supply chain as a whole.
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