For employees at the biggest Wall Street banks, 2012 brought a humbling post-crisis reality of job cuts, lower pay and tarnished reputations. For investors, it was a happier story.

The 81-company Standard & Poor’s 500 Financial Index is up 27 percent this year, its largest annual increase since 2003, led by a 104 percent gain in Bank of America Corp. The index beat the broader S&P 500 Index for the first time since 2006.

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