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Home builder Pulte leads the year's gainers


The following is a list of the five biggest gainers and the five biggest losers in the Standard & Poor's 500 index in 2012.

The Winners:

— 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.

The Losers:

— 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.

Notable mentions:

— 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.


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