The Week's Biggest Stock Laggards

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The gains weren't huge this week, but with the global economy facing trouble at every turn, investors are no doubt grateful to see the market in the black at all. The situation in Europe remained front and center, keeping investors on their toes throughout the week. Standard & Poor's sounded a concerning note on Monday when it placed the credit ratings of 15 European Union countries on review, threatening a cut of one to two notches. On Friday though, the market cheered an agreement among EU countries to draft a new treaty that would bring deeper economic integration and potentially help head off a similar debt-fueled crisis in the future.

Thanks to the jump on Friday, the S&P 500 managed a gain of nearly 1% for the week while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) edged up 1.4%. However, many sectors weren't able to keep up with the overall index gains, notably these three, which ended up at the bottom of the barrel for the week.

Bottom 3 Performing Sectors

S&P Sector

Weekly Price Change

December Price Change

Telecommunications0.4%0%
Energy0.2%(0.6%)
Materials(0.1%)(1.4%)

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Weekly price change is Dec. 2-Dec. 9. Monthly price change is Nov. 30-Dec. 9.

Refiner Tesoro (NYS: TSO) was among the energy companies significantly bucking the indexes gains during the week as it plunged more than 11%. Much of the slide took place on Tuesday after a Credit Suisse analyst downgraded the shares to neutral, noting that there may be better opportunities in the space, including Marathon Petroleum. The drop continued a day later as investors worried that rising crude prices and falling gasoline prices will crimp refining profits.

While Tesoro was the hardest hit, it wasn't the only refiner losing ground during the week; Valero fell 6.3% and Western Refining (NYS: WNR) shed 3.8%.

Also grabbing one of the bottom three spots for the week was Olive Garden and Red Lobster parent Darden Restaurants (NYS: DRI) . Thanks to rising food costs and lackluster performance from Olive Garden, the company took a chainsaw to its growth forecast, slashing it from a range of 12% to 15% to a range of 4% to 7%. Basically, the company gave Mr. Market no choice but to hammer its shares.

Bottom 3 Performing S&P 500 Companies

Company

Weekly Price Change

Darden Restaurants(9.1%)
Tesoro(11.1%)
Juniper Networks (NYS: JNPR) (11.9%)

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Weekly price change is Dec. 2-Dec. 9.

Also showing up among the week's laggards was oil services giant Halliburton (NYS: HAL) and Wynn Resorts (NAS: WYNN) . Halliburton's shares took it on the chin when BP dragged the company back into the muck over responsibility for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Meanwhile, Wynn was hit by cautious comments from an analyst at JPMorgan Chase. Joseph Greff maintained an overweight rating on Wynn's shares, but cut his price target and earnings expectations on concerns over the company's growth in Macau.

That's it for this week's top laggards recap. If you're looking to turn that frown upside down and find strong outperformers in the year ahead, The Motley Fool has created a brand new free report titled "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012." In it, my fellow Fools reveal a top pick that's poised for explosive growth ahead. Get instant access by clicking here -- it's free.

At the time this article was published The Motley Fool owns shares of JPMorgan Chase, Western Refining, and Darden Restaurants. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer owns shares of BP, but does not have a financial interest in any of the other companies mentioned. You can check out what Matt is keeping an eye on by visiting his CAPS portfolio, or you can follow Matt on Twitter @KoppTheFool or Facebook. The Fool's disclosure policy prefers dividends over a sharp stick in the eye.

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