Netflix, Amazon among 2015's biggest gainers

NEW YORK -- In a flat year overall for stocks, there was still plenty of excitement to be enjoyed -- or endured -- by 2015's biggest winners and losers.

See Full Article

It was a year to make old guard companies shudder.

New media companies like Netflix, which rose 140 per cent to notch the biggest gain in the S&P 500, overtook established media companies like CBS. Amazon eviscerated traditional retailers like Macy's and Walmart. And energy and materials companies were flattened by weak demand at a time of abundant supplies. The biggest loser was Chesapeake Energy, down almost 80 per cent in 2015.

The Dow Jones industrial average, dominated by long-established companies in traditional industries, is down 2 per cent for the year through midday Wednesday. The Nasdaq composite, with its heavy concentration of technology companies, is up a respectable 6 per cent.

Here are the stories behind some of the stock markets biggest winners and losers for 2015.

ANOTHER STAR TURN FOR NETFLIX

Netflix has enjoyed top billing before: it was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500 in 2010 and 2013, and it more than tripled in value both years.

But another big year in 2015 pushed the company's value past established media rivals like CBS and made it about the same size as Time Warner. The streaming entertainment service had 69 million subscribers at the end of the third quarter, and almost a quarter of those signed up in the last year. Netflix also continued to win fans for shows like "Orange is the New Black" and "Narcos." The company says its service will be available in 200 countries by the end of the year.

AMAZONIAN PROPORTIONS

E-commerce giant Amazon celebrated its 20th anniversary with results that sent investors into a buying frenzy. Amazon was the second biggest gainer in the S&P 500 for the year, up 112 per cent through Wednesday. The company is on track to report more than $100 billion in revenue in 2015 and it has started to turn higher profits more frequently despite a loss in the first quarter.

Its stock surge pushed the company's market value past that of longtime competitor Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart stock fell 29 per cent in 2015, which made this Wal-Mart's worst year since 1974, when it had fewer than 100 stores. Wal-Mart was the Dow's biggest loser.

"This year seemed to mark an inflection point for Amazon," wrote Christine Short, an analyst at Estimize, who said Amazon was "almost solely responsible for the downfall of big box giant Wal-Mart."

Macy's and Staples also were among the 20 biggest losers as fewer shoppers trekked to stores and bought more goods online instead.

Amazon is now in a battle with the other high-flying stock of 2015: Amazon and Netflix are now rivals in creating original entertainment for subscribers. This year the two snagged almost 50 Primetime Emmy nominations between them. Netflix shows received far more nominations but Amazon's shows won five Emmys to Netflix's four.

WARCRAFT GETS A CANDY CRUSH

The third biggest gainer in the S&P 500 was Activision Blizzard, the video game maker behind "Call of Duty" and "World of Warcraft." It rose 92 per cent as it moved to expand into the sweeter side of games. In November the company agreed to buy King Entertainment, the maker of the smartphone game "Candy Crush Saga," to strengthen its mobile games business. It is also working on a "World of Warcraft" movie and a TV show adapted from its kid-focused "Skylanders" game.

The rest of the top ten winners in the index were a mix of companies representing several industries, including the video graphics chip maker NVIDIA, the payments processor Total System Services, the website domain name company VeriSign, and Spam maker Hormel Foods. FirstSolar also made the top 10, getting a major boost when Congress extended tax breaks for solar installations in December.

THE BIGGEST LOSERS

Six of the 10 biggest losers in the S&P 500 were energy companies, led by Chesapeake Energy, Southwestern Energy and Consol Energy. All three are dependent on the price of natural gas and all fell between 75 per cent and 80 per cent this year. Nine energy companies in the index lost at least half their value.

A big reason: Mother Nature. An extraordinarily warm fall and early winter in the U.S. is slashing demand for heating, and half the nation uses natural gas to heat their homes. Natural gas supplies were already high coming into the winter. That combined with low demand pushed natural gas prices to their lowest levels since 1999 in mid-December, not adjusted for inflation.

The rout in crude oil prices that began in mid-2014 deepened in 2015, pulling down the value of oil company shares and the performance of the overall stock market.

All this pain for energy companies is good for consumers, who are now enjoying low prices for gasoline and shrinking heating bills.

There were four non-energy losers in the S&P's bottom 10.

  • Mining company Freeport-McMoRan fell 69 per cent, hurt by slowing economic growth in China that reduced demand for raw materials.
  • Watchmaker Fossil Group lost about two-thirds of its value as fitness trackers grew more popular and the Apple Watch was launched.
  • Chipmaker Micron Technology fell 60 per cent as consumers continued to turn away from personal computers.
  • Casino operator Wynn Resorts fell 54 per cent because a corruption crackdown in China has dampened enthusiasm among high-rolling gamblers in Macau, an important location for Wynn.


Advertisements

Latest Economic News

  • NAFTA, Round 1: U.S. opens talks by insisting on major changes to pact

    Economic CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- NAFTA negotiations are underway -- and the United States says it wants major changes to the agreement, not mere tweaks. U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer welcomed his Canadian and Mexican counterparts to Washington, D.C. Source
  • CIBC takes over banking business from PC Financial, renames bank Simplii

    Economic CBC News
    President's Choice is getting out of the banking business, selling its PC Financial unit to CIBC, which will rebrand the bank as Simplii. The two companies announced the end of their 20-year collaboration on Wednesday, as Loblaw says it will retain its loyalty point program and credit card offering, while handing over all daily chequing, savings, lending and other banking services to CIBC. Source
  • Trump renews Twitter criticism of Amazon

    Economic CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump is renewing his attacks on e-commerce giant Amazon, and he says the company is "doing great damage to tax paying retailers." Trump tweets that "towns, cities and states throughout the U.S. Source
  • Fiat-Chrysler and BMW team up with Intel to develop self-driving system

    Economic CBC News
    Fiat Chrysler is teaming up with BMW and Intel to develop an autonomous-driving system. The companies say the system will be used by automakers worldwide to run self-driving vehicles. It will be flexible so automakers can keep their unique brand identities. Source
  • Quebec consumers group reaches deal with Pharmaprix over Optimum points lawsuit

    Economic CTV News
    MONTREAL -- A Quebec consumers' rights group has come to an agreement that could settle a long-standing class action over the Optimum points program offered through Pharmaprix, part of Loblaw's pharmacy business. Option consommateurs says in a statement that Pharmaprix, the name under which Shoppers Drug Mart chain operates in Quebec, has agreed to pay pay 2,354,032,174 Optimum points worth $4,350,102 under their deal. Source
  • CIBC to launch Simplii direct banking brand, integrate PC Financial accounts

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO -- CIBC is launching a new direct banking brand that will also absorb accounts currently with Loblaw-owned President's Choice Financial. The bank says its new Simplii Financial brand will provide no-fee daily banking through online, mobile and telephone channels in much the same way that that PC Financial already offers its roughly two million clients. Source
  • $1B tower lifts San Francisco skyline to new heights

    Economic CTV News
    SAN FRANCISCO -- More than 60 stories above the ground, construction workers climb makeshift stairs and cross narrow steel planks to put the finishing touches on Salesforce Tower, now San Francisco's tallest building. The $1.1 billion skyscraper has already changed the city's iconic skyline, towering over old favourites like Coit Tower and the Transamerica Pyramid. Source
  • Group estimates 34,000 barrels of oil spilled off Kuwait

    Economic CTV News
    KUWAIT CITY -- An analysis of satellite imagery by a U.S.-based non-profit organization suggests at least 34,000 barrels of oil have leaked out during a spill off the coast of Kuwait. West Virginia-based SkyTruth says satellite photos from the day of the spill off southern Kuwait show it spread over a distance covering 131 square kilometres (50.5 square miles). Source
  • What Canadian business hopes to get from NAFTA talks

    Economic CBC News
    Canadian businesses are hoping U.S. negotiators will be receptive to maintaining, if not improving, the current flow of goods and workers across the border as the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement is renegotiated. Economist Trevor Tombe of the University of Calgary says ensuring the flow of skilled workers is a "pretty realistic prospect" in the NAFTA talks and is important to the economies of both the U.S. Source
  • Asian shares mixed after U.S. indexes take small losses

    Economic CTV News
    BEIJING - Asian stock markets were mixed Wednesday after U.S. indexes took small losses as Washington and North Korea indicated their willingness to reduce nuclear tensions. KEEPING SCORE: The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.4 per cent to 3,239.30 points and Tokyo's Nikkei 225 was unchanged at 19,753.70. Source