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Bristol-Myers leads gains for healthcare in S&P 500 during December 2019

Healthcare was the third-best performing sector on the S&P 500 Index in December 2019, with New York-based biopharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. providing the best returns among the healthcare companies with a gain of 12.7%.

Bristol-Myers previously saw negative returns of 0.7% in Novermber, with a sharp increase in returns a month later after posting positive results in late-stage clinical studies and filing a new drug application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its blood cancer drug liso-cel. The company also received the European Commission's approval of its blood cancer combination therapy and announced a 9.8% increase in its quarterly dividend.

Indianapolis-based biopharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co. and Columbus, Ohio-based life sciences tools and services provider Mettler-Toledo International Inc. had the second- and third-highest returns on the S&P 500 Healthcare index, amounting to 12.0% and 10.3%, respectively.

Lilly raised its quarterly dividend by 15%, while Mettler-Toledo increased its earnings guidance for 2019.

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Two other healthcare companies that were among the 10 worst performers in November managed to secure a position in the top 10 on the S&P 500 Healthcare index in December.

Parsippany, N.J.-based animal medicines manufacturer Zoetis Inc. — which was the second-worst performing healthcare company in November, with negative returns of 5.8% — saw a 9.8% gain in December. The company announced a 22.0% increase in its quarterly dividend in December.

Mylan NV progressed from 1.9% negative returns in the previous month to a 7.0% gain in December.

Louisville, Ky.-based Humana Inc. maintained its place in the top five highest-performing companies on the S&P Global Healthcare Index for the second month in a row and saw a total return of 7.6%.

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Heart device developer Abiomed Inc. was the worst-performing healthcare company for December as well as the worst performer in the S&P 500 Index with a loss of 13.0%. The company was the third-worst performer on the S&P 500 Healthcare index in November with negative returns of 5.5%.

Other healthcare companies with negative returns in December included Cardinal Health Inc. and Incyte Corp., which were among the best performers in the healthcare sector during the previous month. The companies lost 7.2% and 7.3%, respectively, and were also included in the list of the bottom-performing companies on the S&P 500 Index.

Technology hardware company Western Digital Corp. emerged as the best-performing stock on the S&P 500 Index with a 26.1% gain.

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The S&P 500 Energy sector was the highest-performing sector in December, with a gain of 6.0%. The overall S&P 500 index saw a positive return of 3.0%, lower than its 3.6% return in November, according to data compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The information technology sector saw the second-best return in the S&P 500 index for the month, with a total gain of 4.5%, while the healthcare stocks followed with a total gain of 3.6%.

S&P 500 Industrials was the only sector on the index with negative returns, amounting to 0.1%.