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The stock-market winners and losers of 2011

Although Christmas has come and gone, investors are still waiting to see if Santa comes for a visit -- and the first signs are promising

Although the Standard & Poor's 500 index may end 2011 with the smallest yearly change since the 1970s, many individual stocks will come out of the year in a very different place from where they began it.

Among the biggest movers of 2011 are some very familiar names and some that flew below the radar.

The worst performer on the Dow Jones industrial average to this point has also been the one that received the most attention, Bank of America. The stock tumbled more than 60% thanks to a nearly nonstop barrage of bad news that also helped the company lose its position as the nation's largest bank.

Among the component stocks of the S&P 500, the worst performer was a less familiar name, though one that is in keeping with the trends of the times. In a year in which a big government experiment on solar energy failed, and attention moved back to more traditional fuel sources, First Solar Inc. suffered, dropping a whopping 75% in the year to date. 

The flip side of that same trend was that an oil and natural gas company, Texas-based Cabot Oil & Gas, was the best performer in the S&P 500, jumping over 100%. 

On the Dow, the company that delivered the best return was an old standby for Americans looking for cheaper eating options. McDonald's is up nearly 30% this year.

To see the other big movers head over to Investor Place, which has lists for the Dow and the S&P 500.

When looking at year-end lists like these, it is always wise to keep in mind the old adage that past performance is no guarantee of future results.

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New year will bring new laws and regulations for small business

-- Nathaniel Popper in New York
twitter.com/nathanielpopper

Photo: On Wall Street. Credit: Michael Nagle / Getty Images

 
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