Financial stocks were the biggest gainers of 2012

Financial stocks logged the biggest gains of 2012 on Wall Street; utilities fell the most

Associated Press

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 26.3 percent.

— Consumer discretionary. Home builder PulteGroup and appliance maker Whirlpool were among the biggest gainers, pushing this sector up 21.9 percent.

— Heath care. Drugmakers Eli Lilly and Merck gained, pushing the industry up 15.2 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 13.1 percent and remains a favorite of analysts.

— Telecommunications. Sprint surged after Japanese company Softbank said it was taking a big stake in the company. The industry advanced 12.5 percent.

— Industrials. General Electric had a good year, as did toolmaker Stanley Black & Decker, pushing the sector 12.5 percent higher.

— Materials. Gains for Dow Chemical and agricultural products company Monsato pushed the industry group up 12.2 percent.

— Consumer staples. Retailers such as Wal-Mart and CVS Caremark had good years. Brewer Molson Coors struggled. The sector rose 7.5 percent.

— Energy. Oil prices fell about 8 percent in 2012. Energy companies like, Chevron, BP and Exxon tracked mainly sideways. The sector rose 2.3 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 2.9 percent this year.

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