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Amazon dominates the year as GE, Mattel take beating

The e-commerce giant’s shares soared 56 percent this year, when even the mere mention of its name in media reports was enough to send rivals scampering, while GE sank amid a leadership change

By Marley Jay  /  AP, NEW YORK

Amazon chief executive officer Jeff Bezos arrives for the third day of the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, on July 12.

Photo: AFP

It was a strong year for the US stock market, but it was a great year if you made airplanes — think Boeing Co — were an online juggernaut (Amazon.com Inc) or built homes (KB Home). It was a year to forget if you were an energy company (Chesapeake Energy Corp) made Barbie dolls (Mattel Inc) or if you were a storied industrial conglomerate about to go on a radical slim-down program, like General Electric Co (GE).

The US stock market had a banner year overall, but there were plenty of big winners, and big losers, among individual US companies. Here is a look at a few of them:

THE WINNERS

The mighty Amazon:

Amazon’s gain of 56 percent this year was hardly shabby, but that number only begins to tell of the enormous effect the company had on the broader market. No other company struck as much fear in its rivals, or potential rivals.

US department stores and mall-based retailers continued to plunge as Americans did more of their shopping at Amazon, while other companies, such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc, raced to build up their own online offerings.

When Amazon snapped up Whole Foods Market Inc in June, investors dumped the stocks of supermarket companies, certain that they would take a shellacking from their new competitor.

Blue Apron Holdings Inc, a start-up that went public in June, took a dive when Amazon got into the meal kit business.

In the fall, a number of drugstore companies tanked at the prospect that Amazon was thinking of getting into drug distribution.

Boeing gets going:

Boeing soared 89 percent this year, one of its best years on record. The aerospace giant has benefited greatly as the global economy kicked into a higher gear, increasing demand for airplanes.

The US economy continued to grow, while major regions, such as Europe and Japan, did better than they had in recent years.

At the same time, military spending in the US is expanding again. It had been declining as combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan wound down.

Late in the year, Boeing became the highest-price stock on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, giving it more influence on the blue-chip index than any other company.

Breaking ground:

US homebuilders made huge gains for the year as housing prices in the country continued to rise.

There are relatively few homes on the market, but demand is strong thanks to the growing US economy, solid hiring and low mortgages rates.

Late in the year, sales of new homes reached a 10-year high and many economists think the trend will continue next year.

The companies dramatically outperformed the market. NVR Inc and KB Home both doubled, and PulteGroup Inc and D.R. Horton Inc rose almost as much.

Without a lot of houses for sale, people also spent more money on home improvement. That was good for Home Depot Inc and Lowe’s Co.

THE LOSERS

GE’s dimming fortunes:

The icon of US industry saw its stock price slump 45 percent as investors wondered what its future will look like.

GE healthcare executive John Flannery replaced Jeffrey Immelt as chairman and chief executive officer as Immelt’s 16-year tenure came to an end.

Soon after he took over, Flannery said GE will shed about US$20 billion in businesses over the next few years.

He said that next year will be a “reset” for GE as the company narrows its focus down to aviation, healthcare and energy.

GE slashed its dividend for the first time in decades, its chief financial officer and two vice chairs departed, and its board is to shrink from 18 to 12.

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