) -- The failure of the so-called

super committee

may have increased the degree of difficulty but stocks typically do pretty well during the holidays.

According to recent data from Birinyi Associates, Santa Claus has comes through with a rally the majority of the time over the past two decades, and surprisingly, the discretionary sector doesn't always lead the way.

Since 1990, the

S&P 500

has been positive 76% of the time for the period running from the Monday prior to Black Friday until the end of the calendar year, delivering an average gain of 2.2%. Through Monday's close, the index was

down 5.1% so far in 2011 on a price basis


The discretionary sector -- which includes retailers, media, consumer services companies and others -- has been in the green 71% of the time, enjoying an average gain of 2.8%.

Pretty good but lagging behind the industrial sector, up 86% of the time with an average advance of 3.1%; utilities, also rising 86% of the time with an average gain of 2.5%; and health care and utilities, both up 76% of the time with average rises of 2.3% and 4.3% respectively.

As for individual stocks, Birinyi provided two separate breakdowns. One lists S&P 500 components that have traded higher at least 85% of the time since 1990, and the other shows index members that have been up less than 45% of the time.

It should be noted that not all the stocks featured in the tables have trading histories going back 20 years. Eleven of the 31 companies on the best performers list were trading publicly in 1990, while 16 of 29 companies on the weak side of the ledger have been trading for that long.

Eight companies have been higher every year during the holiday season, Birinyi notes, but none of them have a trading history going back more than 10 years. Of this group,



has the lengthiest track record, and its average gain is 12.2%. So far in 2011, shares of the St. Louis-based seed and herbicide producer have risen 1.5%.

First Solar

(FSLR) - Get Report

has the best track record, delivering an average gain of 16.3% while rising every year since 2006, but the company has struggled year-to-date, falling more than 60%, so sentiment looks to be stacked against it.

Other stocks on the historical holiday winners list include


(GOOG) - Get Report

, rising 86% of the time with an average advance of 6.9%;

U.S. Steel

(X) - Get Report


AK Steel

(AKS) - Get Report

, both enjoying average gains of roughly 16%; and medical device maker


(SYK) - Get Report

, which has been positive 90% of the time, rising an average of 9.3%.

Among the stocks that historically haven't fared so well,


(HAL) - Get Report

is a standout, coming in positive just 33% of the time since 1990 while falling an average of 1%.

Consumer electronics retailer

Best Buy

(BBY) - Get Report

is another names that jumps out. Not much of a Black Friday boost here with shares moving higher 38% of the time, registering an average decline of 3.2%.


(WMT) - Get Report

also tends to flag as the year draws to a close. The stock has risen 43% of the time in the past two decades during the holiday period with an average gain of just 0.5%.

F5 Networks

(FFIV) - Get Report

has the ignominious distinction of posting the biggest average decline, 7.1%, according to Birinyi, with the shares positive only 42% of the time since 1999. The stock is down more than 20% so far this year.

And finally, history isn't exactly on the side of those holding out hope for a dramatic year-end rally in beaten-down

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

, whose shares are down nearly 60% in 2011, plumbing a 52-week low of $5.13 on Oct. 4.

Bank of America shares have been positive 43% of the time in the period stretching from the Monday before Black Friday through the end of the year but the average gain is less than 1%.


Written by Michael Baron in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here:

Michael Baron


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