What can we learn by looking at the year's 10 worst performers among the S&P 500? That it's not an opportune moment for alternative energy. Some financial-crisis chickens are coming home to roost. Investors get nervous when your company closes a hundred-odd stores or one of its executives departs under mysterious circumstances. And nobody, but nobody, likes paying separate fees for DVDs and streaming services.
The year's worst performer on the S&P's major stock index, down 74.75 points for the year as of December 29, was First Solar Inc. Shares for this Tempe-based alternative energy company took a tumble after its CEO, Rob Gillette, stepped down in October, shortly after Solyndra Corporation filed for bankruptcy.
The steel industry is also hurting as the year comes to a close, with demand weak in both the United States and China. That accounts for U.S. Steel's poor showing at number seven, with stocks down 56.06% for the year, as well as the decline of Alpha Natural Resources, down 67.18 percent to claim the number two spot. Alpha provides metallurgical coal to steelmakers, and is feeling the slowdown as much as anyone.
Netflix's appearance at number three, with a 60.56 percent loss for the year, shouldn't surprise anyone, as the company had a disastrous 2011. Customers fled en masse when Netflix tried to charge separately for its mail-order rental and streaming options, and its attempt to do damage control with the short-lived Qwikster spinoff ended up harming the company's image further.
It would be easier to report what Bank of America, down 59.07 percent for the number five spot, didn't do wrong this year, rather than try to enumerate its problems. Debit card fees. The Countrywide lawsuit. Hiring a collection agency to harass a woman about her late husband's debts. Not a banner year.
Sears Holdings Corporation's decision to close at least 100 Sears and Kmart locations likely hasn't bolstered investor confidence. Ditto the largely unexplained departure of Cablevisions Systems COO Tom Rutledge, and the potential $1.5 billion write-off that Computer Sciences Corporation is facing in the U.K. And the ongoing foreclosure crisis has left mortgage insurance provider Genworth Financial in a hard place.
Below, the full list of the year's 10 worst performing stocks in the S&P 500: