November 26, 2022

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These are the best-performing S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100 stocks of 2021

(Updated as of the market close on Dec. 31.)

The performance of the stock market in 2021 was nothing short of remarkable, surprising many investors after the dramatic crash-and-recovery cycle of 2020.

A continuing recovery for the world economy meant increased demand and shortages in various industries, including semiconductors and energy. Some of the best-performing stocks were oil and gas producers, as the price of West Texas Crude oil
CL00
rose 55%.

The following are lists of the best-performing stocks among the benchmark S&P 500 index
SPX,
the the S&P 400 Mid Cap Index
MID,
the S&P Small Cap 600 Index
SML
and the Nasdaq-100 Index
NDX.
Then there’s a list showing how all 30 components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA
have performed in 2021.

All performance figures in this article include reinvested dividends. For starters, here’s a chart showing total returns for all the indexes in 2021:


FactSet

The S&P 500 had the top spot with a 28.7% return for 2021, although it had pulled back from its high on Nov. 9, when it was up 32% for the year.

Best-performing S&P 500 stocks of 2021

The S&P 500 is weighted by market capitalization, which means the largest five companies — Apple Inc.
AAPL,
Microsoft Corp.
MSFT,
Amazon.com Inc.
AMZN,
Alphabet Inc
GOOGL

GOOG
and Tesla Inc.
TSLA
— made up 23% of the SPDR S&P 500 ETF
SPY
as of the close on Dec. 31.

The gains in 2021 were broad, with 88% of the S&P 500 showing positive returns. Here are its 20 best performers in 2021:

Company

Ticker

Industry

Total Return – 2021

Devon Energy Corp.

DVN Oil & Gas Production

196.1%

Marathon Oil Corp.

MRO Oil & Gas Production

149.7%

Moderna Inc.

MRNA Biotechnology

143.1%

Fortinet Inc.

FTNT Computer Communications

142.0%

Signature Bank

SBNY Regional Banks

141.5%

Ford Motor Co.

F Motor Vehicles

137.5%

Bath & Body Works Inc.

BBWI Retail

133.7%

Diamondback Energy Inc.

FANG Oil & Gas Production

127.4%

Nvidia Corp.

NVDA Semiconductors

125.5%

Nucor Corp.

NUE Steel

118.4%

Gartner Inc.

IT Internet Software, Services

108.7%

Extra Space Storage Inc.

EXR Real Estate Investment Trusts

101.0%

Arista Networks Inc.

ANET Computer Communications

97.9%

Simon Property Group Inc.

SPG Real Estate Investment Trusts

95.8%

APA Corp.

APA Integrated Oil

90.8%

EOG Resources Inc.

EOG Oil & Gas Production

88.7%

Iron Mountain Inc.

IRM Real Estate Investment Trusts

87.8%

Seagate Technology Holdings PLC

STX Computer Peripherals

87.6%

CF Industries Holdings Inc.

CF Chemicals

87.1%

ConocoPhillips

COP Oil & Gas Production

86.7%

Source: FactSet

You can click the tickers for more about each company. Click here for Tomi Kilgore’s detailed guide to the wealth of information for free on the MarketWatch quote page.

To make any of the lists, a stock had to be traded publicly for all of 2021.

Among the top 20 performers in the S&P 500, six were oil producers.

Ford Motor Co.
F
was up 137.5%, ranking sixth on the list, with a low valuation to expected earnings helping justify investors’ approval of at the early stage of its switch to electric cars. Ford’s rival General Motors Co.
GM
didn’t make the list, as its stock was up “only” 40.8% in 2021 (ranking 160th among the S&P 500), while shares of Tesla were up 49.8% for 2021 following their 743% increase in 2020.

Read: Ford Is More Valuable Than GM for the First Time Since 2016

Best-performing midcap stocks

Remember the meme stocks? Of course you do. GameStop Corp
GME.
led this craze, as traders banded together through the wallstreetbets Reddit channel in early 2021 to bid up the prices of heavily shorted stocks.

Through Jan. 27, shares of GameStop were up 1,744.5% for 2021. Some traders who got in late were burned, as the stock took a dive through Feb. 22. But through Dec. 31, it was up 687.6% for the year, leading this list of the top 20 performers in the S&P 400 Mid Cap Index:

Company

Ticker

Industry

Total Return – 2021

GameStop Corp. Class A

GME Electronics, Appliance Stores

687.6%

Avis Budget Group Inc.

CAR Finance, Rental, Leasing

456.0%

Synaptics Inc.

SYNA Semiconductors

200.3%

SiTime Corp.

SITM Semiconductors

161.4%

Alcoa Corp.

AA Aluminum

159.0%

Olin Corp.

OLN Industrial Specialties

138.5%

Macy’s Inc.

M Department Stores

135.7%

Navient Corp.

NAVI Finance, Rental, Leasing

124.0%

Murphy Oil Corp.

MUR Oil & Gas Production

121.3%

Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc.

DKS Specialty Stores

116.4%

Louisiana-Pacific Corp.

LPX Forest Products

113.3%

Builders FirstSource Inc.

BLDR Building Products

110.0%

Crocs Inc.

CROX Apparel/Footwear

104.6%

Tenet Healthcare Corp.

THC Hospital, Nursing Management

104.6%

Targa Resources Corp.

TRGP Oil Refining/ Marketing

100.1%

Life Storage Inc.

LSI Real Estate Investment Trusts

98.5%

National Storage Affiliates Trust

NSA Real Estate Investment Trusts

98.0%

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

GT Automotive Aftermarket

95.4%

American Financial Group Inc.

AFG Property/ Casualty Insurance

94.8%

Teradata Corp.

TDC Software

89.0%

Source: FactSet

Small-cap stocks

A broad small-cap index, such as the Russell 2000
RUT,
includes companies that haven’t yet turned profits and even some “pre-revenue” companies counting positive outcomes for binary events, such as regulatory approval of medication.

This list of the year’s 20 best-performing small-cap stocks instead relies on the S&P 600 Small Cap Index, which has a tougher selection criteria for initial inclusion. That includes positive earnings for the most recent quarter and for the sum of the most recent four quarters.

Company

Ticker

Industry

Total Return – 2021

Veritiv Corp.

VRTV Wholesale Distributors

490%

SM Energy Co.

SM Oil & Gas Production

382%

Apollo Medical Holdings Inc.

AMEH Services to the Health Industry

302%

Customers Bancorp Inc.

CUBI Regional Banks

260%

Callon Petroleum Co.

CPE Oil & Gas Production

259%

TimkenSteel Corp.

TMST Steel

253%

Chico’s FAS Inc.

CHS Apparel, Footwear Retail

238%

Signet Jewelers Ltd.

SIG Specialty Stores

221%

Consol Energy Inc.

CEIX Coal

215%

Cross Country Healthcare Inc.

CCRN Personnel Services

213%

Matador Resources Co.

MTDR Oil & Gas Production

207%

United Natural Foods Inc.

UNFI Food Distributors

207%

Laredo Petroleum Inc.

LPI Oil & Gas Production

205%

Thryv Holdings Inc.

THRY Advertising, Marketing Services

205%

Boot Barn Holdings Inc.

BOOT Apparel, Footwear Retail

184%

ArcBest Corp.

ARCB Trucking

182%

Donnelley Financial Solutions Inc.

DFIN Software

178%

Perficient Inc.

PRFT Personnel Services

171%

Range Resources Corp.

RRC Oil & Gas Production

166%

Ranger Oil Corp. Class A

RRC Oil & Gas Production

165%

Source: FactSet

Turning more to tech: Nasdaq-100

The Nadaq-100 Index includes the largest 100 non-financial stocks by market cap in the full Nasdaq Composite Index
COMP.
It includes Chinese companies that aren’t included in the S&P 500.

Here are the top 20 performers among the Nasdaq-100 in 2021:

Company

Ticker

Industry

Total Return – 2021

Lucid Group Inc.

LCID Motor Vehicles

280%

Moderna Inc.

MRNA Biotechnology

143%

Fortinet Inc.

FTNT Computer Communications

142%

Nvidia Corp.

NVDA Semiconductors

125%

Marvell Technology Inc.

MRVL Semiconductors

85%

Applied Materials Inc.

AMAT Industrial Machinery

84%

Datadog Inc Class A

DDOG Software

81%

Intuit Inc.

INTU Software

70%

KLA Corp.

KLAC Semiconductors

68%

Alphabet Inc. Class A

GOOGL Internet Software, Services

65%

Atlassian Corp. PLC Class A

TEAM Software

63%

Zscaler Inc.

ZS Software

61%

Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

AMD Semiconductors

57%

Palo Alto Networks Inc.

PANW Computer Communications

57%

Broadcom Inc.

AVGO Semiconductors

56%

O’Reilly Automotive Inc.

ORLY Specialty Stores

56%

Lam Research Corp.

LRCX Electronic Production Equipment

54%

Microsoft Corp.

MSFT Software

52%

Costco Wholesale Corp.

COST Department Stores

52%

Paychex Inc.

PAYX Data Processing Services

50%

Source: FactSet

The Dow 30

The Dow Jones Industrial Average brought up the rear in the chart at the top of this article. Home Depot Inc.
HD
took the top stop in the Dow, with a 59.5% return for 2021, while Walt Disney Co.
DIS
was the worst performer, with a 14.5% decline:

Company

Ticker

Industry

Total Return – 2021

Home Depot Inc.

HD Home Improvement Chains

59.5%

Microsoft Corp.

MSFT Software

52.5%

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

GS Investment Banks, Brokers

47.6%

Chevron Corp.

CVX Integrated Oil

46.3%

Cisco Systems Inc.

CSCO Information Technology Services

45.8%

UnitedHealth Group Inc.

UNH Managed Health Care

45.2%

American Express Co.

AXP Finance, Rental, Leasing

36.9%

Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.

WBA Drugstore Chains

35.8%

Apple Inc.

AAPL Telecommunications Equipment

34.6%

McDonald’s Corp.

MCD Restaurants

27.8%

JPMorgan Chase & Co.

JPM Banks

27.7%

Procter & Gamble Co.

PG Household, Personal Care

20.5%

Nike Inc. Class B

NKE Apparel, Footwear

18.7%

International Business Machines Corp.

IBM Information Technology Services

16.8%

Caterpillar Inc.

CAT Trucks, Construction, Farm Machinery

16.0%

salesforce.com Inc.

CRM Software

14.2%

Travelers Companies Inc.

TRV Multi-Line Insurance

14.0%

Johnson & Johnson

JNJ Pharmaceuticals

11.4%

Coca-Cola Co.

KO Beverages: Non-Alcoholic

11.4%

Dow Inc.

DOW Chemicals

6.9%

Intel Corp.

INTC Semiconductors

6.0%

3M Co.

MMM Industrial Conglomerates

4.9%

Walmart Inc.

WMT Food Retail

2.0%

Merck & Co. Inc.

MRK Pharmaceuticals

1.8%

Amgen Inc.

AMGN Biotechnology

0.9%

Honeywell International Inc.

HON Industrial Conglomerates

-0.3%

Visa Inc. Class A

V Finance, Rental, Leasing

-0.3%

Boeing Co.

BA Aerospace & Defense

-6.0%

Verizon Communications Inc.

VZ Telecommunications

-7.5%

Walt Disney Co.

DIS Cable, Satellite TV

-14.5%

Source: FactSet

More year-end stock-market coverage:

  • Look for the best dividend-paying stocks to stay in the money in 2022 and beyond

  • These stocks are down at least 20% from 2021 highs, but Wall Street sees them gaining as much as 87% in 2022