U.S. Stock Market's Five Best and Worst Performers in 2014's First Half

As we close out the first half of 2014, its time to take a look back at the year-to-date U.S. stock market gainers and losers.

The three major benchmarks ended the first half of 2014 modestly in the green. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the first six months of the year up 1.5%. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index logged a 6.1% gain and the Nasdaq Composite added 5.5%.

U.S. stock marketWhile bonds and related securities were expected to underperform, as the U.S. Federal Reserve winds down its asset-buying program, this sector turned in impressive gains. Long-term bond funds rose 12.5% from January through June. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, meanwhile, slipped from 3.03% to 2.52%.

Gold and silver, due for a bounce after 2013's painful 28% and 36% drops respectively, reversed course. Gold prices rose 10% in 2014's first half, and silver prices gained 8.6%. Gold mining stocks performed even better, up 27.5% in the same period.

Oil (light sweet crude) rose 7.1% as worries mounted over oil export and import disruptions as Iraq faces a full scale civil war. Natural gas prices rose 5.5%.

Yield-starved investors piled into income investments. High-yielding utility funds surged 15.8%, real estate funds soared 16.5% and master limited partnerships in the energy sector climbed 17.2% in the first half of 2014.

Stocks turned in a mix showing, with sizable gains and losses across several sectors. Following are the five best and five worst performers of 2014's first half.

U.S. Stock Market's Best and Worst Stocks for 2014

First let's look at who's lagging in performance. It might not be a surprise that our list of stock market losers for 2014's first half all hail from the retail sector...

Worst 2014 Stock Market Performers, No. 5: Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY) shares have not matched their stellar 2013 performance. After soaring 253% last year, and landing among the 10 best performing stocks of 2013, the electronic retailer's shares slid 22% in the first half of 2014. Money Morning spotted the troubling times BBY was facing in January following weak holiday sales data. Harsh winter weather and tight consumer spending also weighed on shares.

Worst 2014 Stock Market Performers, No. 4: Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. (Nasdaq: BBBY) shares slumped 28% in the first half of 2014. First quarter results were disappointing and sent shares slipping to a 52-week low. The retailer, like many of its peers, was a corporate victim of tepid consumer spending and one of the worst winters on record.

Worst 2014 Stock Market Performers, No. 3: Staples Inc. (Nasdaq: SPLS) shares tumbled 32% over the January through June period. The office supply retailer is finding it difficult to compete with online and big box retail giants. Also creating headwinds for SPLS is the late 2013 merger of Office Depot Inc. (NYSE: ODP) and Office Max.

Worst 2014 Stock Market Performers, No. 2: Whole Foods Market Inc. (Nasdaq: WFM) shares have faced a whole lot of problems year to date. The stock plummeted 33% over the first half. Disappointing fiscal Q2 earnings and dismal full-year guidance from the nation's largest natural food grocer sent shares swooning. Current increased competition is also the most "intense" the company has ever had to deal with.

Worst 2014 Stock Market Performers, No. 1: Coach Inc. (NYSE: COH) takes the crown as the first half's biggest loser. Shares of upscale handbag and accessory maker plunged 39% from January through June. Rivals like Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. (NYSE: KORS) and Kate Spade & Co. (NYSE: KATE) are luring customers away from a market once dominated by Coach. Earnings have disappointed and the company provided gloomy full-year fiscal guidance. As many as 21 analysts have soured on the stock, lowering their ratings and price targets.

Now, for some good news...

Best 2014 Stock Market Performers, No. 5: Electronic Arts Inc. (Nasdaq: EA) shares soared 56% in the first half of 2014. The distributor of game software for video game consoles, personal computers, mobile phones, and tablets has enjoyed robust sales thanks to a strong lineup of games, as well as the ever-increasing use of mobile devices.

Best 2014 Stock Market Performers, No. 4: Keurig Green Mountain Inc. (Nasdaq: GMCR) surged 65% from January through June. The maker of K-cups for coffee machines began perking up in February when it announced a strategic deal with The Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO). GMCR shares rose further in May when Coke exercised an option to take a bigger stake in the company.

Best 2014 Stock Market Performers, No. 3: Forest Laboratories Inc. (NYSE: FRX) shares soared 65% in the first half of 2014. Sending shares of the biotech company climbing was news that Irish drugmaker Actavis Plc. (NYSE: ACT) agreed to buy N.Y.-based FRX for $25 billion in cash and stock, or $89.48 a share. That was a 25% premium to FRX's closing price prior to the announcement. 

Best 2014 Stock Market Performers, No. 2: Nabors Industries Ltd. (NYSE: NBR) gained a whopping 73% in 2014's first half. The Bermuda-based oil drilling and rig operator also benefited from rising crude prices. Yet some of NBR's biggest gains have come in the last several weeks. In late June, NBR entered into an agreement with oil field services provider C&J Energy Services Inc. (Nasdaq: CJES) to merge its completion and production services located in the United States and Canada with C&J for some $2.86 billion in cash and stock. The move is expected to benefit both companies.

Best 2014 Stock Market Performers, No. 1: Newfield Exploration Co. (NYSE: NFX) grabs the top spot on the five best stock performers year-to-date list. Shares of the Woodlands, Texas- independent energy company surged 79% from January through June. Rising natural gas and oil prices lifted shares. Also boosting the stock was upbeat forward earnings guidance from the company, as well as rising earnings estimates from a number of analysts.

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