Financial stocks were the biggest gainers of 2012
Financial stocks had a stellar year in 2012, leading the industry groups in the Standard & Poor's 500 index. Utility companies were the worst performing group. Nine of the 10 sectors in the index advanced in 2012.
• Financials. The stocks of insurers and banks, led by Bank of America and Citigroup, gained 25 percent.
• Consumer discretionary. Home builder PulteGroup and appliance maker Whirlpool were among the biggest gainers, pushing this sector up 20 percent.
• Heath care. Drugmakers Eli Lilly and Merck gained, pushing the industry up 14 percent.
• Telecommunications. Sprint surged after Japanese company Softbank said it was taking a big stake in the company. The industry advanced 12 percent.
• Information technology. Oracle and Apple were among the gainers in the sector, while Hewlett-Packard and Advanced Micro Devices were among those that had a bad year. The sector advanced 12 percent and remains a favorite of analysts.
• Industrials. General Electric had a good year, as did toolmaker Stanley Black & Decker, pushing the sector 11 percent higher.
• Materials. Gains for Dow Chemical and agricultural products company Monsato pushed the industry group up 11 percent.
• Consumer staples. Retailers such as Wal-Mart and CVS Caremark had good years. Brewer Molson Coors struggled. The sector rose 7 percent.
• Energy. Oil prices fell about 8 percent in 2012. Energy companies like, Chevron, BP and Exxon tracked mainly sideways. The sector rose 1 percent.
• Utilities. Often regarded as a safe haven, these stocks fell out of favor with investors this year. After advancing 15 percent in 2011, they fell nearly 4 percent this year.