How Investors Lost Billions When Everyone Else Made $20 Trillion

What’s worse than losing $10 billion in a year on stocks? Losing it when everyone else just made $20 trillion on the S&P 500 and beyond.


It’s been a astoundingly profitable year for most investors holding stocks in the S&P 500 plus smaller and midsize companies since the pandemic lows on March 23, 2020. But if you held shares in the rare losers since then, like S&P 500 laggards Gilead Sciences (GILD) and Biogen (BGEN), you’re not feeling so good.

All told, a remarkably tiny number of S&P 1500 companies are actually lower now than they were at the pandemic crash’s low. Only 24 stocks in the S&P 1500, including just three in the S&P 500, are down in a year’s time. And adding up all those losses results in a market value decline of $10.5 billion, says an Investor’s Business Daily analysis of data from S&P Global Market Intelligence and MarketSmith.

That’s a bitter pill to swallow. Even after Tuesday’s late-day sell-off, the S&P 1500 is up 83.4% since the March 2020 low. That put $19.7 trillion of wealth into portfolios in that time and $725 billion just this year so far, says Wilshire Associates. The S&P 500 is up 76% from the market’s March 2020 low.

It’s a reminder to focus on the leaders, even in a raging bull market. A rising tide doesn’t lift every single boat.

Biggest Loser On A Percentage Basis

Some of the losses in some S&P 1500 stocks even during the bull market the past year are head-turning.

Small-cap financial eHealth (EHTH) is the top loser on a percentage basis, shedding more than a third of its value in the past year. The company provides private health insurance to families and companies in the U.S. and China. The stock’s drop wiped out nearly a billion dollars in market value. That meant big hits for top holders like index fund runners BlackRock (BLK), which owns 15% of the company, and Vanguard, which owns 8.6%.

Bigger benefits claims continue to hammer the company’s bottom line. Profit per share last year fell to $2.43 a share. That’s down more than 40% from the $4.16 a share it earned in 2019. Revenue, though, rose 15%. Analysts think profit will rise 15% this year, but it’s still in the penalty box with a rock-bottom IBD Composite Rating of just 31.

Left Out From S&P 500’s Gains

What about among the S&P 500?

Gilead Sciences was supposed to be a primary player in the Covid aftermath. The company makes a variety of treatments for human immunodeficiencies. Perfect for a pandemic, right? And yet, shares are down more than 11% since the S&P 500 hit rock bottom going into the pandemic. That wiped out $10.7 billion in market value — the biggest dollar loss of any loser. Mutual fund company Capital Group, which owns 16.5% of the company, took the biggest hit followed by BlackRock, which owns roughly 9%.

Compare that with the gains of the winners. Pfizer (PFE), the S&P 500 health care company first out with a Covid vaccine, is up 24% from the market’s low. That put nearly $40 billion of new wealth into investors’ portfolios. Moderna (MDNA), another vaccine maker, is a huge winner although not in the S&P 500 (yet).

Another big S&P 500 loser in the pandemic rally is Biogen (BIIB).

The company is working on treatments for a number of neurological diseases. But it’s still looking for its big breakthrough, especially in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The company’s stock is down 0.7% since the S&P 500’s low last year. But that’s enough to wipe out value of roughly $6 billion. Now, Biogen’s Composite Rating is just 30. And its profit is seen plunging 45% this year vs. last year. Primecap is the top Biogen holder at 10.4%.

The past 12 months made making money in stocks look easy. But just know, you can still lose money in a bull market.

Lose Money In A Bull Market?

Top percentage losers in the S&P 1500 from March 23, 2020 pandemic low

Company Symbol Ch. From March 23, 2020 YTD Ch. Sector
eHealth (EHTH) -37.8% -4.2% Financials
Strategic Education (STRA) -27.0% -8.1% Consumer Discretionary
Invesco Mortgage Capital (IVR) -26.5% 16.0% Financials
Exterran (EXTN) -24.4% -19.5% Energy
GEO Group (GEO) -23.9% -13.5% Real Estate
Fresh Del Monte Produce (FDP) -16.4% 16.4% Consumer Staples
Lannett (LCI) -15.1% -6.6% Health Care
United Insurance Holdings (UIHC) -11.8% 29.2% Financials
Gilead Sciences* (GILD) -11.2% 10.7% Health Care
Viatris (VTRS) -10.0% -24.4% Health Care
ANI Pharmaceuticals (ANIP) -8.7% 10.2% Health Care
Universal Insurance (UVE) -6.8% -1.7% Financials
ATN International (ATNI) -6.1% 15.9% Communication Services
Easterly Government Properties (DEA) -4.6% -7.3% Real Estate
Tootsie Roll (TR) -4.4% 14.7% Consumer Staples
Cogent Communications (CCOI) -4.0% 8.8% Communication Services
CoreCivic (CXW) -2.9% 29.5% Industrials
Inogen (INGN) -1.9% 6.2% Health Care
HealthStream (HSTM) -1.6% 4.2% Health Care
Cato (CATO) -1.6% 19.0% Consumer Discretionary
Northwest Natural (NWN) -0.8% 11.4% Utilities
Biogen* (BIIB) -0.7% 9.1% Health Care
American States Water (AWR) -0.7% -6.4% Utilities
Perrigo* (PRGO) -0.4% -5.8% Health Care
Sources: IBD, S&P Global Market Intelligence, * — in the S&P 500

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