NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Oil prices have dominated business news headlines over the past 6 months, playing a key hand in determining the winners and losers for 2014.
Airlines, the beneficiary of plunging gasoline prices, were the best performers of the year, helping to boost the SPDR S&P Transportation ETF (XTN) more than 34% over 2014. Southwest Airlines (LUV) was the best performer of the S&P 500, gaining nearly 130%, while Delta Air Lines (DAL) surged 80%.
Drilling companies fared the worst with the SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration and Production ETF (XOP) down more than 31%. Among the worst performers, Transocean (RIG) plunged 63%, Diamond Offshore (DO) dropped 35%, and Noble Corp (NE) tanked 55%.
Crude oil has suffered gaping losses this year with West Texas Intermediate crude half its mid-summer peak. On Wednesday, the commodity's fall continued, down 2.8% to $52.63 and on track for its biggest annual decline in six years. Oil has been in freefall as supply outpaced global demand and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries refused to limit future production.
The overall markets have fared markedly better with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite on track to close out the year with double-digit gains. Barring any earth-shaking news, the S&P 500 will likely end the year 13% higher, mere points from its all-time high. The Nasdaq Composite looks to close with gains of 14%, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 9%.