Financial stocks were the biggest gainers of 2012

Updated: 12/31/2012 3:37 PM

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.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)