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Stocks that did the best in 2008

By Shobhana Subramanian & Varun Sharma in Mumbai
December 27, 2008 13:22 IST
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The star of 2008 so far has been Hindustan Unilever; the multinational FMCG player has actually gained 20.45 per cent between January 1, 2008 and December 24, 2008.

Only two other stocks have posted positive returns this year -- bike maker Hero Honda, which rose 16.6 per cent, and drug major GlaxoSmithKline Pharma, which returned 9 per cent.

The BSE Sensex lost nearly 53 per cent, while the NSE Nifty came off by 52.5 per cent. Among the Sensex stocks, JP Associates was the biggest loser, falling 82 per cent.

In the Nifty basket, Unitech lost 92 per cent, registering the biggest fall. Only companies from the 'A' list have been considered for the purpose of this study.

That HUL and GSK Pharma have done so well isn't too surprising because, after all, we're in a bear market and investors typically like to play defensives -- the FMCG and pharma indices are the best performers. Nevertheless, they were the toppers in their respective sectors.

What's really creditable is Hero Honda's performance; in a sector that seems to have hit a roadblock, Hero Honda has delivered some splendid numbers, mainly driven by its strong brand. The company cashed in on the purchasing power in the rural areas and wasn't hurt as badly as some of its peers, by high interest rates.

Of the top twenty outperformers (i.e. lost less value than the Sensex), seven were from the FMCG sector; most of these firms have been able to beat the slowdown and post reasonably good profits.

With consumers not yet down trading, they have managed to push volumes and taken price increases though that hasn't been able to prevent margins from slipping.

With input prices coming off, stocks such as Nestle, with its strong basket of brands, could continue to be good bets for some more time--at least till the bear market ends.

There were four members from the pharma pack in the top 20, including Sun Pharma. The IT and the PSU indices were marginal outperformers; while the Sensex fell nearly 53 per cent, the IT sector index lost around 51 per cent, and the PSU basket was down nearly 50 per cent.

Amongst the worst performing sectors, real estate took a beating -- it lost 82 per cent -- thanks to the economic slowdown and higher interest rates, which resulted in lower demand for housing and also delayed projects.

The BSE Metals index dented nearly 75 per cent. Falling prices, resulting from weaker demand, were the culprits.

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Shobhana Subramanian & Varun Sharma in Mumbai
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