NEW YORK (
) -- As the end of a tumultuous year for financial stocks approaches, it's a time to
to 2010, but also worth gazing back to see how far we have come.
Here's a brief look at some of the biggest financial firms, where they were at this point in 2008, and how much money you would have earned or lost, had you bought $10,000 worth of their stock a year ago.
: A year ago, government arms Fannie and Freddie had only begun their work to help stabilize the housing market.
Already under the auspices of conservatorship, the two mortgage giants were unveiling plans to assist delinquent borrowers. Since then, it's been a long road that eventually involved the country's biggest banks halting foreclosures and implementing plans to keep people in their homes. It has also resulted in additional losses and the tapping of credit lines from the federal government.
The future of Fannie and Freddie appears as unclear now as it did a year ago and their charitable work hasn't made their balance sheets any more viable. But quizzically, speculative traders would have made a pretty penny had they bought Fannie or Freddie shares a year ago, when they were both well within penny stock territory.
A $10,000 investment in Fannie common would have earned $7,833, or 78.3%, while the same investment in Freddie would have earned $11,030, or 118%.
: Does it even need to be said?
JPMorgan and Goldman have proven themselves to be "best of breed" for financial stock investors. The two firms never posted losses on the same level as peers, retained business and confidence throughout the crisis, and repaid TARP as quickly as possible.
JPMorgan has also scored some sweet deals out of the chaos, with the government-assisted purchase of Bear Stearns, and the relatively good parts of Washington Mutual. Exactly a year ago on Dec. 22, it announced another deal to acquire UBS's Canadian energy and agriculture business.
While Goldman had just reported a stunning fourth-quarter loss in December 2008, the market ultimately shrugged it off. And with a dearth of competition, Goldman has seized opportunities and always appeared to remain a step ahead of the rest.
A $10,000 investment in Goldman stock a year ago would have more than doubled by now, to $21,487, while the same for JPMorgan would have gained $4,051, or 40.5%.
Bank of America
: In late 2008, Bank of America shareholders had just approved the purchase of Merrill Lynch. Some certainly considered it a bargain and were hoping for less fearsome and more profitable days ahead with the thundering herd in tow.
We all know what has occurred since then: The disclosures of Merrill's escalating losses, the bonuses, the additional $20 billion in bailout funds, the ensuing investigations and lawsuits and shareholder dissent. CEO Ken Lewis, who was heralded as a savior and wise dealmaker at the time, was stripped of his chairman title and is stepping down at the end of the year.
But has it really all been so bad?
Merrill has contributed roughly one-third of Bank of America's bottom line this year, as the market improved and the wave of employee defections has abated. The bank just repaid the entire $45 billion in bailout funds. Even Lewis' reputation has regained some of its luster, with
CEO Warren Buffett
for saving the market in its time of desperation.
And while long-term holders of Bank of America stock are still not pleased, someone who bought $10,000 worth on Dec. 22, 2008, would have made a $1,234, or 12.3% gain.
: Things seemed pretty bad for Citigroup a year ago, but the bleeding didn't stop with the government's $40 billion capital injection and $300 billion worth of asset guarantees.
The government now owns 7.7 billion shares of Citigroup, after converting a huge chunk of its preferred stock into common. While things seemed to have turned around recently when Citigroup announced its plans to repay the remaining $20 billion in bailout funds it owes, that plan has floundered as well with the pricing of its related stock sale coming in lower than expected, prompting the Treasury, which had plan to participate in the offering, to hang on to its stake.
Even though the company has made a good amount of progress in its turnaround efforts -- selling noncore businesses, unwinding toxic holdings, seeing improvements in operations -- there is simply
to have any price support. Amid the massive dilution, a $10,000 investment in Citi a year ago would have lost $4,933, or nearly half of its value, to date.
American International Group
: A year ago, it was unclear whether AIG would ever repay taxpayers. This week, CEO Bob Benmosche said it might take as little time as two years.
AIG had just begun its process of unwinding toxic divisions and selling off assets to raise cash in late 2008. On Dec. 22, 2008, it announced the sale of its HSB Group division to Munich Re for over $800 million in cash and securities.
But since then, Benmosche -- who took the reins in August -- has taken a firmer hand in assessing sales, deciding which businesses are actually worth selling, and taking the time to get the best pricing for those that are not core to operations. For instance, on Tuesday,
reported that the firm will hold off on the spin-off of its Chartis property and casualty until, which AIG may ultimately keep.
Still, shareholders haven't been helped much by the 20-for-1 reverse split. An investor who bought $10,000 worth of AIG common on Dec. 22, 2008, would have lost $1,286, or 12.9%, to now have $8,714.
: It's been a rocky ride for Wells Fargo investors over the past year.
Almost a year ago to the day, Wells Fargo received stockholder approval for its acquisition of Wachovia. Since then, the bank has been weighed down by concerns about Wachovia's bad debt, and whether its capital metrics are strong enough to sustain ensuing loan losses.
After its stock sunk below $8 in March amid the broad financial sell-off, the shares rebounded astoundingly on the back of a surprisingly strong first-quarter report. By the second quarter, though, investors were less impressed by the good news on the bottom line and more worried about escalating credit costs.
Wells Fargo may have turned a corner recently, however, becoming the last major bank to announce its repayment of $25 billion in bailout funds, with minimal dilution to shareholders, as promised. But its capital metrics remain lower than peers, and although management is expecting a peak to credit costs in the near term, investors may need to see results before the stock follows suit.
A $10,000 investment in Wells Fargo a year ago would have lost $36.47, or 0.4% to date.
Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York