BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- A year that began with optimism for the stock market has turned into a rout. The worst performer on the benchmark S&P 500 Index has lost two-thirds of its value.
Things are so bad that the 10 biggest laggards have fallen at least 50% this year.
The Standard & Poor's index, which tracks the performance of the 500 largest U.S. stocks and is used as a benchmark for the overall health of the U.S. equities market, is down 6.5% so far in 2011 and is barely above water over the past 12 months, with a 1.6% gain.
The index topped out at 1,370 points on May 2. It didn't start its steep decline until the last week of July, and the third quarter has turned into a horror show, because, as of Sept. 23, it had lost 14% in the period.The still-evolving sovereign debt crisis in Europe, the growing threat of a double-dip recession in the U.S., and the lack of leadership on economic policy from the Federal Reserve and the White House, have all served to send investors to the sidelines, or to gold. The bottom 10 performers listed below include a wide array of businesses ranging from basic industries, such as coal and steel, to financial services, including one of the nation's largest banks. Surprisingly, many of these stocks have garnered mostly positive ratings from analysts. In order of worst to least-worst, here are the 10 poorest-performing stocks in the S&P 500 Index this year: 1. Monster Worldwide (MWW - Get Report) provides Web sites that match up job seekers and employers. Its service is active in 50 countries. But its earnings outlook and share performance are tied to the employment situation, which has been dismal for the past few years and has held at 9.1% nationally for the past two months. As a result, Monster's shares are down 67% this year, giving it a market value of $967 million. Analysts are surprisingly upbeat on the company, giving its shares seven "buy" ratings, one "moderate buy," five "holds," and one "strong sell," according to TheStreet Ratings.