Historically, November is one of the best months of the year for the S&P 500. When you combine it with December, the two deliver a year-end punch that's even stronger. As we approach the half-way mark of the month, with the benchmark index up 0.6% month to date and less than half a percent off of its all-time high, a trio of out-performers has emerged that are having a November to remember.
1) J.C. Penney (JCP)
That's right. The beleaguered department store chain from Dallas has the dubious honor of being able to claim the top and bottom spots in the S&P 500. Clearly, it's worst-in-class 57% year to date decline was overdone and intrepid investors have been moving back in since late October. A better than expected earnings report and guidance last week also helped keep the rally alive in a stock that has only two buy ratings from the twenty-three analysts who cover it.
Since bottoming out at $6.24 on October 22nd, the embattled chain has gained 34%, with about a third of that, or 11.6%, coming in November. That's good enough to earn J.C. Penney the third spot.
2) Transocean (RIG)
The world's largest offshore oil services company can claim a lot of reasons why it is up 16% this month, but investors would be remiss not to realize some of those gains are the result of activist investor Carl Icahn increasing his stake to almost 6% and pushing for a special $3.00 dividend.
Better than expected earnings and sales last week also helped Transocean's cause, as did news that its much sought after fleet of drilling equipment improved to an 83% utilization rate.
Taken together, these events have driven the shares of this Houston-based business sharply higher in November, making them the second best performer in the S&P 500, as well as a clear stand-out in the energy sector (XLE) which is flat for the month.
Transocean's rebound is surely welcome news for shareholders, although its recent bounce still leaves it about half the size it was prior to the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010.
3) First Solar (FSLR)
Who says solar panels are dead? The biggest domestic player in sun-powered energy is not only having a November to remember, but a 2013 that's pretty keen too, with the stock up 100% year to date and 22% so far this month.
It's top spot in the S&P 500 so far this month was solidified on the first day of November when the Tempe, Arizona based firm reported 50% revenue growth and earnings per share that were twice what analysts expected.
Since then, the entire group has benefited, and a recent report out of Asia has helped matters too, when it said China's central energy authority was planning to build more solar power stations next year than originally thought.
If you're looking for a common thread between the three vastly different businesses from three totally different sectors, it would have to be strong earnings and lots of upside. Unlike the S&P 500, all three of these stocks are still no where near their all-time highs.