While any investor would have loved to know this list a year ago, it's a good guide for 2013. Several of the factors that drove these share prices up and down in 2012 haven't changed.
The best stocks were led by signs of a recovery in housing, a slight return of consumer confidence, and the U.S. Federal Reserve's unprecedented monetary easing measures.
"The sector leaders are what one would expect with the [Fed] policy and with continued monetary injections into the economy this year through bond purchases," Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at Oakbrook Investments LLC, told The Wall Street Journal. "By pumping money into the economy the Fed boosts consumer confidence-and spending-which one would expect to boost consumer and financial shares."
While the leaders' success was tied to central bank actions, the biggest losers simply stumbled from their lack of innovation, inept management, and failed business models.