To say that 2015 was a trying year for America’s investor class would be an understatement.
Market participants were buffeted by a number of headwinds, from a decline in the S&P 500 to a sharp slowdown of in China infecting the economies of several emerging markets. Even typical safe havens like the bond market were unable to avoid increased volatility, as uncertainty over the Fed’s ultimate decision to raise interest rates and soft energy prices hurt the high yield debt market in particular.
But even in generally choppy waters, some ships sink faster than others. Here are the worst places to have put your money in 2015:
Twenty-five of the worst 30 performing stocks in the S&P were in the energy sector, due to the collapse in oil prices that just won't go away. Oil defied the expectations of analysts and futures markets, remaining below the lows set in 2014, trading as low as $34 per barrel in the week leading up to Christmas.
Why didn't investors think prices would remain this cheap this long? For one, they underestimated the ability of American frackers to stay in business even as demand remained anemic. In addition, China—which had been providing much of the global demand for fossil fuels—experienced an economic slowdown of unexpected severity.
While cheap oil may be a boon for U.S. consumers, expect cheap oil to stick around for at least another few years, and for the energy sector of the S&P 500 to simply grin and bear it.
Nine of the ten worst performing stocks in the S&P 500 were in the energy sector, but you didn't have to be an oil driller to have a bad 2015. Computer chip maker Micron(MU) saw its stock fall more than 58% in 2015, as the company completely whiffed on its earnings expectations amid weak sales of personal computers and a supply glut of the firms biggest product: memory chips.
There was no shortage of underperforming emerging market economies in 2015. The fear of rising rates in the U.S. sparked investment outflows in many economies, while the slowdown of economic growth in China hurt countries like Brazil's which depend on exporting commodities to the world's second-largest economy.
Brazil’s economy shrank by 4.5% in the third quarter of this year, and analysts are predicting that it will shrink by 3% in 2015 when all is said and done. And you couldn’t do much worse this year than betting on the Brazilian real, which fell by more than 33% against the dollar.
Despite the continued economic recovery that has given American's more money in their pockets to spend on vacations and luxury goods, Wynn Resorts (WYNN) had a terrible year in in 2015. That's because most of the company's revenue comes from its Macau locations, the Chinese tourist hotspot just 40 miles from Hong Kong. There, Wynn caters to China's economic elite, the very same folks who are likely wary to spend amid corruption probes and widespread economic weakness in their home country. Such trends spooked investors, who sent Wynn stock falling more than 50% on the year.
Macy's (M) may be the largest department store in the country, but its size isn't enough to save it from the changes that are roiling the retail industry. Not only are consumers moving away from Macy's bread-and-butter, apparel, but they are increasingly buying the clothes they do purchase online. Macy's has responded by announcing that it will close dozens of stores and and attempt to diversify its merchandise away from apparel, but the announcements have not assuaged investors who have pushed the stock down more than 45% in 2015.