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5 ASX 100 winners and losers for December

Overall, the S&P ASX 100 Index (ASX: ^XTO) had more of  a “Santa” recovery than rally. It started at 4432 points and is slightly down at 4423, after rising from 4176 in the middle of December.

There are a number of big gainers and losers approaching the month’s end.

Gainers

Whitehaven Coal (ASX: WHC) +18% ($1.88).

The company’s Maules Creek coal mine in NSW was cleared to start after an appeal by an environmental group was dismissed by the Federal Court. The $767 million project was approved in February, but the environmental group’s appeal had held it up until the court ruling.

Henderson Group (ASX: HGG) +9% ($4.16).

The UK-based international fund manager had its stock rating restated as “sector performer” earlier in December by RBC Capital. The analyst consensus rating has a “hold” on the stock.

Ramsay Healthcare (ASX: RHC) +9% ($42.55).

In December, the owner and operator of hospitals and day surgery facilities announced the acquisition of Medipsy, which has 30 medical health clinics in France. The acquisition makes the company the third-largest healthcare provider in France.

Losers

QBE Insurance (ASX: QBE) -27% ($11.50).

The company now expects to have a net loss for the year of $250 million due to $930 million in writedowns, partly connected to previous acquisitions. The share price collapsed from around $15.50 to about $10.50 over several days in early December.

Graincorp (ASX: GNC) -24% ($8.53).

The proposed acquisition of the company by US agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland (NYSE: ADM) was rejected by the Federal government, sending the share price plummeting from $11.20 to as low as $8.25 within one day of the announcement. Despite concerns that a takeover would put too much of the east coast agricultural infrastructure under foreign control, the US company was planning to invest substantially in Graincorp.

Foolish takeaway

The beginning of 2014 should give a clear sign of what to expect next year. The mining sector has to adjust to new levels of international market supply and demand. Retail is dependent on consumer sentiment, which has been picking up over the past months. An improving housing market could stimulate retail spending even more.

At the start of a new business cycle, investors typically move from defensive stocks to those of clear profit growth as the economy kicks into a higher gear. Low interest rates drive the movement, spurring on businesses and consumers to take advantage of the cheap money until the market heats up too much. The RBA isn’t worried about inflation for now, so there’s no impending will to tighten monetary policy as yet.

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Motley Fool contributor Darryl Daté-Shappard does not own shares in any company mentioned. 

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