Here are the S&P's 10 Best and Worst Performers of 2008, courtesy of Dow Jones:
Best of 2008:
1) Rohm and Haas Co. (ROH) (materials), up 32.98%. The chemical firm agreed to be acquired by Dow Chemical (DOW) for nearly $19 billion in cash and debt. Rohm and Haas' specialty chemicals has earned it a premium as they are seen as more stable than basic chemicals used in manufacturing. The slump in oil prices has also benefited chemical firms.
2) UST (UST) (consumer staples), up 26.20%. The tobacco and wine manufacturer reached a deal to be acquired by Altria. Tobacco stocks have outperformed as investors seek safe havens and high dividends.
3) Family Dollar Stores (FDO) (consumer discretionary), up 23.14%. The stock of the discount retailer was celebrated as a defensive play in a weak economic environment, and thanks to the firm's prudent money management, it is seen as likely to generate big cash flow in 2009.
4) Amgen (AMGN) (health care), up 24.87%. Boosted by the success of its anemia drugs, Amgen's stock benefited from an overall trend towards biotechnology firms, and being in the health-care sector, a classic defensive play in market downturns.
5) Barr Pharmaceuticals (BRL) (health care), up 23.45%. The generic-drug maker reached an agreement to be acquired by Teva Pharmaceuticals (TEVA) for nearly $9 billion in cash and debt.
6) Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), (consumer staples), up 15.63%. The discount retailer benefited as consumers worldwide retrenched and turned to cheaper alternatives for their basic shopping needs.
7) Celgene (CELG) (health care), up 10.3%. Sales at the biotechnology firm, which specializes in cancer treatment, are expected to top $2 billion this year. Celgene plans to boost sales in European markets and to launch in Australia and Canada. Its blockbuster cancer treatment Revlimid is currently being tested to treat lympocytic leukemia.
8) H&R Block (HRB) (consumer discretionary), up 10%. The tax-preparation services company, posted a narrowing loss for its fiscal second quarter compared with the year-earlier quarter, benefiting from the closure of its subprime mortgage unit.
9) Hasbro (HAS) (consumer discretionary), up 9%. The maker of board games such as Scrabble and Monopoly is benefiting from consumers backing away from video games and expensive gadgets and turning towards cheaper entertainment games.
Southwestern Energy (SWN) (energy), up 9%. Even though natural gas prices have slumped, the producer's third-quarter revenue more than doubled as it boosted production by 76%.
Worst of 2008:
1) American International Group (AIG) (financials), down 97%. The insurer, once the world's largest, was bailed out by the government to the tune of $150 billion after nearly collapsing due to its exposure to derivatives linked to bad home loans.
2) XL Capital (XL) (financials), down 93.54%. The insurance giant reportedly put itself up for sale. In November, XL Capital posted a quarterly loss of $1.65 billion due to investment losses and its stake in ailing bond insurer Syncora Holdings Ltd.
3) Genworth Financial (GNW) (financials), down 89.94%. The property and life insurer was hit by investment losses and concerns over its capital. The firm reached an agreement to acquire Interbank fsb.
4) American Capital (ACAS) (financials), down 89.88%. The firm, which invests in middle-market companies, cut its dividend to preserve capital and reduce leverage.
5) ProLogis (PLD) (financials), down 88.49%. The real-estate investment trust flirted with bankruptcy due to its lack of liquidity and highly leveraged position.
6) National City (NCC) (financials), down 87.65%. The Ohio bank agreed to be acquired by PNC Financial Services for $5 billion after lack of liquidity forced it to consider filing for bankruptcy.
7) Liz Claiborne (LIZ) (consumer discretionary), down 86.73%. After its capitalization sank amid a worsening environment for all retailers, the apparel maker was replaced in the Standard & Poor's 500 index, accelerating a slide in its shares.
8) Wachovia (WB), (financials), down 85.06%. Crumbling under writedowns of bad assets, the bank agreed to be acquired by Wells Fargo Co. (WFC).
9) Developers Diversified Realty (DDR) (financials), down 84.57%. An other real estate investment trust, which has seen its situation deteriorate amid a worsening economy and tight credit markets.
10) Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. (HIG) (financials), down 81.80%. The life, property and casualty insurer saw its shares sink on concern it could run out of capital and be unable to back up its insurance policies.