So far in 2012, the best stock on the S&P 500 comes from the world of travel.
Going back to the final trading day of last year, TripAdvisor (TRIP), which split off from Expedia (EXPE), is leading the way with a gain of 74.6%, according to FactSet data. The company, only a few months into life on the public markets, was recently trading above $44, continuing a steady advance from the high $20s back in December.
Previously mentioned Expedia comes in with a 59.9% increase in the last six months, giving it the No. 3 spot on the S&P. Staying in the travel sector, Priceline.com (PCLN) is another solid performer, up 40.3%, but not quite good enough to crack the top 10. Not all travel outfits are following along, though. Orbitz (OWW) has missed the rally, dropping about 10% this year, as has Travelzoo (TZOO), down around 13%.
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Back to the winners. Sears Holdings (SHLD) is the only S&P 500 stock besides TripAdvisor to climb more than 70% in the past half year, and it comes in with a 73.9% gain. Homebuilder PulteGroup (PHM) follows with a climb of 54%, and then comes Alabama-based bank Regions Financial (RF), up 47.9%.
The downside leaders on the S&P are coal company Alpha Natural Resources (ANR), down 62.2%, followed by solar technology firm First Solar (FSLR) with a decline of 55.9%. Electronic Arts (ERTS), the video-game designer, has dropped 41.9%, and metals company Allegheny Technologies (ATI) has surrendered 40.1%.
Clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) finishes out the worst five on the S&P with a 38.1% loss.
On the Nasdaq, many of the best performers are small- or micro-cap stocks -- Recon Technology (RCON), up 541.2%, has a market cap of under $8 million and has the biggest gain. The top 10 is dominated by biotechs like Threshold Pharmaceuticals (THLD), up 508.2%, and BioDelivery Sciences (BDSI), up 410.5%. (Chart below courtesy of FactSet.)
As for the Nasdaq 100, which filters out the tiniest names and focuses on the bigger stocks, the winner is again in the drug space: Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX), up 79.5%. The aforementioned Sears and Expedia are also top-five stocks on this list, joined by drinks seller Monster Beverage (MNST), up 62%, and disk-drive maker Seagate Technology (STX), ahead by 47.1%.
The weakest of the index is Green Mountain Coffee (GMCR), down 55.3%. Electronic Arts has the ignominy of reappearing here, followed by BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIMM), off 38.2%, and education company Apollo Group (APOL), down 33.5%.
The overall Nasdaq decliner is movie producer Seven Arts (SAPX), trading now at 4 cents and microscopically capped at $2.4 million. It's down 89.6% for the year.