NEW YORK (

TheStreet

-- With a volatile 2009 in the books, here are the best and worst performers for the S&P 500 index over the past year.

WINNERS

XL Capital -- Up 397.57%


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XL Capital

(XL) - Get Report

has to be the unofficial S&P 500 Comeback Player of the Year. The Bermuda-based insurer managed to reverse a 2008 deathbed performance to generate the best gains among components of the S&P 500 Index this year.

It was quite a comeback, considering that the company was the second-worst performing stock in the index in 2008. What's more, the shares started the year slowly and didn't bottom out until they sank to a low of $2.56 in February. From that nadir to its current share price above $18, the stock's value has increased by more than 7 times.

New XL Capital CEO Michael McGavick deserves a good bit of the credit for the insurer's reversal of fortune. The biggest day of 2009 for XL Capital was when it finally returned to the black with its third-quarter report. The company posted earnings of $21 million in the three-month period, versus a loss of $1.6 billion the year-ago equivalent quarter. The performance was well ahead of Wall Street expectations, and the stock rallied in the wake of the report.

And just last week, XL Capital received another important market endorsement: Moody's raised its rating on the insurer from negative to stable. It's been a good year for XL Capital, but it still has a long way to go before it returns to its pre-market meltdown stature. In July 2007, XL Capital was trading at $85.67.

Written by Eric Rosenbaum in New York/

Tenet Healthcare -- Up 352.17%


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It was clearly a good year for

Tenet Healthcare

(THC) - Get Report

as the Dallas-based hospital company roared back to life in the final three quarters of 2009. Although it's pulled back from its 52-week high of $6.39 in late October, the stock's gains remain impressive, and it was keeping up the positive trend in Thursday's final trading session, adding more than 5%.

The recovery by Tenet Healthcare mirrored the 2009 trend in health care, even as it outdistanced its peers. Tenet was trading as low as $1 in April, and the stock has benefited as the health care reform overhang lessened. The more visibility the market received on the shape of health care reform, the more the health care sector went on a broad rally.

Of course, analysts say it is important to keep in mind that hospital stocks were so beaten down in 2008, any meaningful recovery looks outsized compared to other sectors. What's more, hospital stocks are highly sensitive to the economy, and job losses, which can push hospital bad debt higher while spending troughs. So the rally in the U.S. market over the past nine months played an overarching role in helping the hospital sector rebound from its 2008 doldrums.

Chasing returns in the hospital area might not be the best idea for investors headed into 2010, though. After the run-up over the second half of 2009, analysts think it might hard for Tenet to push much higher with the impact of health care reform already priced into the shares. With the potential for the U.S economic recovery to run into hiccups, economically sensitive hospital stocks may not present the best risk-reward profile, after the major gains, led by Tenet, in 2009.

Written by Eric Rosenbaum in New York.

Advanced Micro Devices -- Up 350%


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Perennially in the shadow of big brother

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

, computer-processor maker

Advanced Micro Devices

(AMD) - Get Report

had a banner 2009.

The company emerged victorious from its seemingly ancient battle to show that its archrival had used coercive tactics to squash competition. AMD was awarded a $1.25 billion settlement, while Intel got slapped with a $1.45 billion fine from the European Union, along with an antitrust lawsuit from New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. The company plans to the windfall to pay down a heavy debt load and to fund a potential spinoff.

AMD has been a late bloomer, booking a large portion of its gain for the year following the Intel settlement. In fact, it notched its high for the year, $10.04, just three days ago, on Monday.

Written by Scott Eden in New York.

Ford Motor Co. -- Up 336.24%


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2009 was a year that saw the Big Three become the Big One, at least when it comes to U.S. automakers with shares listed on a stock exchange. With archrivals

General Motors

and

Chrysler

into (and then out of) Chapter 11,

Ford

(F) - Get Report

survived perhaps the most trying chapter in the history of the American automobile, mostly because of a now-prescient decision to essentially mortgage the company. The resulting liquidity allowed Ford to weather the financial crisis and the Great Recession, while at the same time adding cars to a product line now widely considered the strongest in the U.S. auto industry.

That initiative has been part of

CEO Alan Mulally's strategy

to emerge from the recession with a slate of vehicles that drivers want to drive.

Ford shares plumbed a year low of $1.50 in March, then reached their peak just before Christmas, when the stock shares broke the $10 barrier for the first time in four years, touching $10.37. Still, that's far below all-time highs (an adjusted $36), attained a decade ago in the late 1990s when the company's cash-cow SUVs were selling briskly.

Times have changed, and Ford is slated to unveil a slew of new vehicles in January at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show. The company has also continued to take market share from its rivals. According to

Autodata

, Ford's market share rose to 20% in first 11 months of 2009, up a percentage point. Ford made a splash when it reported third-quarter results with an unexpected $1 billion profit, and it expects solid profits by 2011.

Written by Scott Eden in New York.

TheStreet Recommends

Genworth Financial -- Up 310.25%


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Genworth Financial

(GNW) - Get Report

, stung by huge losses in itsmortgage-insurance business, nonetheless saw its share price rocket during 2009 as the financial crisis eased, the credit markets unfroze, and investors began to make early wagers on some kind of recovery in the decimated U.S housing market.

Early in the year, Genworth, whose main line is life insurance, hadwanted to take bailout money under the Troubled Asset Relief Program,but it missed a deadline. That misstep, it turns out, may have been thebest thing that could have happened to the company.

The company's stock has vastly outperformed rival insurers who didreceive TARP funds, including

Lincoln National

(LNC) - Get Report

(whose shares have gained just 32% for the year) and

Hartford

(HIG) - Get Report

(up 44%).

During the depths of the bear market Genworth's stock price broke abuck, plummeting as low as 78 cents in March -- a valley that feels likea distant memory. The 52-week high, $13.68, came in September, and thestock has since edged back from that peak, but no large insurancecompany has come close to matching the performance of Genworth shares in2009.

Written by Scott Eden in New York.

LOSERS:

Marshall & Ilsley -- Down 60.19%


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Marshall & Ilsley

( MI) has the dubious distinction of posting the most precipitous drop from among the components of the S&P 500, which overall rose roughly 24%. As was the case with many regional banks, Milwaukee-based M&I has struggled with the toxic assets on its balance sheet, with its exposure to the commercial sector particularly worrisome, as many believe that area is primed to experience the next wave of defaults. The company said its exposure to construction and development loans was roughly 13.7% of its total loans of $47.1 billion at the end of September. Not exactly chump change.

On Oct. 20, M&I posted a loss of $248.4 million, or 68 cents a share, for the third quarter ended Sept. 30, and it acknowledged at that time that it had a ways to go before it could get back in the black: "There are some encouraging early signs that credit quality is improving, but we realize it will take a few more quarters to fully address our problem loans." The company also still owes $1.7 billion worth of TARP funds, and is expected to eventually need to sell additional equity to clear that obligation. In the meantime, it paid the U.S. Treasury a dividend of 7 cents a share, totaling $25 million, on its TARP-related preferred stock holdings, in the third quarter, and will need to keep it up until it clears its TARP tab.

Written by Michael Baron in New York.

Huntington Bancshares -- Down 51.96%


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Huntington Bancshares

(HBAN) - Get Report

stockholders don't have much to be thankful for this year. Shares are down more than 50% since the end of 2008, as the company has racked up $2.7 billion in losses for the nine months ended Sept. 30. Shareholders have also been diluted more than 95% as the regional bank raised nearly $725 million in fresh funds to soak up loan losses.

As far as 2010 goals go, CEO Stephen Steinour put it plainly when announcing third-quarter results: "We believe it is in the best interest of our shareholders to position Huntington for a return to profitability as soon as possible." Still, considering the stock's low for the year was $1, scraped in late February, the shares close comfortably above $3.50 in the final session of the year may seem to some like cause for celebration.

Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York.

Citigroup -- Down 50.52%


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Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

Citigroup's logo evokes the restlessness of its investors during a tumultuous year: "Citi never sleeps."

Similar to Huntington, Citi's stock lost more than half of its value over the course of 2009. And again, its finish well north of $3 on Thursday -- in some crazy way -- doesn't look quite so bad, given the shares' traipse through penny-stock territory in March when the issue famously broke below a buck.

But after converting $25 billion worth of the government's preferred holdings into common and raising hordes of private capital, Citi shareholders have become as diluted as bland consommé. There are 34 billion outstanding Citi shares after its most recent capital raise, and that equity is now representative of a smaller and smaller company as Citi continues to sell off non-core businesses and unwind the toxic assets. Given the Treasury's plan to sell its 7.7 billion shares in 2010, it may be quite awhile before there are enough buyers to support a meaningful rise in market-value. But at least it survived.

Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York.

MetroPCS Communications -- Down 48.62%


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MetroPCS Communications

(PCS)

stands out from among the decliners as the lone non-financial. The prepaid wireless service provider has seen its performance suffer because of increased competition. It doesn't help that the phone models it offers with its service are hard-pressed to compete with the functionality of higher-end products, such as

Apple's

(AAPL) - Get Report

iPhone.

The company's net subscriber additions for the third quarter were below its own expectations, as it saw continued elevation in customer churn and a slowdown in overall new subscriber growth. And while revenues were up year-over-year through the third quarter, so was MetroPCS's cost per gross subscriber addition, which swelled to a whopping $153.94, up $25.73 from a year earlier, as the company attempted to launch its services in the highly competitive Boston and New York metropolitation markets.

Written by Michael Baron in New York.

Zions Bancorp -- Down 47.78%


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Shares of

Zions Bancorp

(ZION) - Get Report

slumped in 2009 as the Salt Lake City-based institution continues to be saddled with bad loans stemming from the housing crisis, specifically commercial real estate-related loans like residential and commercial construction.

The stock hit a 14-year low back in March of $9.37, as the financial sector careened on the brink of disaster. Zions has since risen 37% from its March low, as the broader markets recuperated, but it's still in recovery mode. Zions' banking franchise spans 10 states from Texas to Washington, giving it exposure to some of the hardest-hit geographic areas.

On a positive note, Zions has been able to take advantage of four FDIC-assisted acquisitions of failed banks within its large coverage area so far.

--Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.