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Stock Scorecard: TripAdvisor Leads for the First Half

The Exchange

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%.

[For a second-half market and investing preview, check out the Breakout video below:]

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.)

Nasdaq winners

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.