BOSTON (TheStreet) -- International crises, especially the eurozone's debt quagmire, are holding sway on investor sentiment this year. Despite robust corporate earnings in the third quarter, poor performances by members of the benchmark S&P 500 Index predominate, as 319 companies are in the loss column so far in 2011.The 10 worst companies have fallen by 57% to 69% this year, an eerily similar performance to 2008, when the financial tsunami gutted the U.S. economy and drove down the average stock on the S&P 500 by almost 40%. The S&P index, which tracks the performance of the 500 largest U.S. stocks, is down 6% this year, even after an encouraging 11% rally in October, the benchmark's best showing since 1991. And over the past 12 months, the index has a mere 0.4% to show for its efforts, as it drags itself to a close for 2012. Howard Silverblatt, a senior index analyst at Standard & Poor's, said in an interview that the financials sector has been hardest hit this year, losing 25% through Nov. 22, followed by materials, with a 15% decline. Industrials are down 11%. Silverblatt notes that financials are off 66% from their high on Oct. 9, 2007, with the broader S&P 500 down 24% since then. "Financials are still weighing down large-caps as the sector reacted to every event" both domestically and internationally, said Silverblatt, in a research note. He said the recent bankruptcy of brokerage firm MF Global ( MF) may have an even larger impact on major banks because it will prompt calls for stronger regulations. The list of the 20 worst performers is dominated by financial-services players. Those just out of the top 10 include Genworth Financial ( GNW), Janus Capital ( JNS), Morgan Stanley ( MS) and Citigroup ( C), all down 48% or more on the year. Surprisingly, many of the worst-performing stocks have garnered positive ratings from analysts, who apparently believe the worst is behind them. In order of bad to worst, here are the 10 poorest-performing stocks in the S&P 500 Index this year:
9. U.S. Steel ( X) shares have slumped 58% this year to $22. The $4 billion company is the second-largest steel maker in the U.S. and among the top 20 globally. Its performance has been hurt by the soft global economy weakening the demand for steel. Its executives recently said they expect to see more of the same. The only bright spot is sales of its tubular steel for the oil and gas industry, but it's not enough to turn the tide. Analysts give its shares seven "strong buy" ratings, one "moderate buy," five "holds," one "moderate sell" and one "strong sell," according to TheStreet Ratings.
7. Bank of America ( BAC) shares have declined 60% this year to about $5. This $56 billion market cap financial giant has been down on its luck for 10 years with an average annual share price decline in that period of 5.4%. The bank's ill-fated $4 billion acquisition of troubled Countrywide Mortgage at the height of the real estate bubble has resulted in continued heavy losses due to the high rate of foreclosures on the mortgages it created as well as potential legal liabilities of tens of billions of dollars from investor lawsuits because of this deal. The bank also faces the economic challenges that other U.S. banks do, including weak new loan growth and a low, flat yield curve, which will likely pinch net interest margins for the foreseeable future. Analysts give its shares nine "strong buy" ratings, one "moderate buy," 11 "holds" and one "moderate sell" rating -- not much different than three months ago, according to TheStreet Ratings.
5. MEMC Electronic Materials' ( WFR) shares have dropped 63% this year to about $4, giving it a market value of $950 million. The company supplies bare silicon wafers, which are used by chipmakers to fabricate semiconductor chips, and the semiconductor industry is in a cyclical downturn, hence the poor demand for MEMC products. Analysts give its shares five "strong buy" ratings, 11 "holds," two "moderate sells" and one "strong sell," according to TheStreet Ratings.
3. Alpha Natural Resources ( ANR), down 66% this year to $19, is a major producer of thermal coal used in electric power plants and metallurgical coal used in the steel-making process. The company, with a market value of $4 billion, made two huge acquisitions within the past two years, making it one of the largest coal miners in North America. It faces potentially continued weak demand as it is one of the big suppliers in the U.S. and China in particular. But analysts are amazingly bullish, giving its shares 16 "strong buy" ratings, one "moderate buy" and three "holds," according to TheStreet Ratings.
1. Monster Worldwide's ( MWW) shares are off 69% this year to about $7, giving the company a $939 million market value. Monster provides Web sites that match up job seekers and employers as a virtual Internet job board. Its service is active in 50 countries. Monster's earnings outlook and share performance are tied to the employment situation, which has been dismal for the past few years, but was 9% nationally in October, a slight improvement over the 9.1% of prior months. Analysts are upbeat about its long-term prospects, giving its shares six "strong buy" ratings and seven "holds," according to TheStreet Ratings.