Large companies wound up faring the best, which explains why the Dow finished the year up 5.5 percent, while the broader-based S&P 500 closed with a
0.43 0.003 percent gain loss - the smallest annual move since at least 1947. Tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 1.8 percent in 2011. From Reuters:
Global markets have been battered this year by the euro-zone debt crisis, upheaval in the Middle East, and U.S. political gridlock. Similar events probably await investors in 2012. "The earnings and fundamentals were there for companies, but the political crisis and paralysis in Washington and Europe were too much," said Martin Sass, who founded and runs the $7.5 billion M.D. Sass hedge fund.
It was a year when U.S. companies were supposed to run out of ways to make big profits. But they didn't, and in fact generated more than ever. It was a year when the U.S. lost its prized triple-A credit rating, which should have spooked buyers of its bonds. Instead investors bought more of them and made Treasurys one of the best bets of 2011. It was a year when stocks caught fire, then collapsed to near bear-market lows. Among stocks, there were some surprising winners. Scaredy-cat investors who bought the most conservative and dullest of stocks -- utilities -- gained 15 percent this year, the biggest price rise of the ten industry sectors in the S&P 500. Other winning groups were consumer staples, up 11 percent, and health care companies, 10 percent.