The S&P 500 has risen only 1.04% in the first 11 months of 2015. But the weak overall index performance hides some major stock moves, according to figures provided by Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices.
Through November, 147 issues were up at least 10% and 163 were down by at least that amount. Active managers who picked much of their portfolios from the first group are likely to outperform while those who selected more than a few stocks from the second will probably trail the index as the year ticks to a close.
Three of the top five winners were in the technology sector and the remaining two are consumer discretionary stocks with strong technology ties. Among the biggest losers through November are companies with commodity products. -- Joseph Lisanti
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Best S&P 500 Performers through November 30:
1. Netflix (NFLX) +152.72%
The world’s largest subscription streaming service saw most of its gains before its 7-for-1 stock split in July. Although subscriber growth continued in the fiscal third quarter (ended October), it was below market expectations. Even so, the consumer discretionary stock gained close to 14% in November. Profits in the third quarter were half what the company earned in the same period in 2014 as Netflix continued to spend on original programming and international expansion.
2. Amazon.com (AMZN) +114.21%
The online retailing giant keeps on impressing investors with revenue growth and market share gains over its brick-and-mortar rivals. The company’s Prime service, which offers two-day delivery and original streaming programming for an annual fee, continues to gain subscribers. Amazon now offers same-day delivery in many larger markets. This year, the company broke out results for its massive cloud business, Amazon Web Services, for the first time. Wall Street is pleased, with more than half of the firms covering Amazon rating it “buy.”
3. Activision Blizzard (ATVI) +86.90%
This software company is a major producer of video games, including World of Warcraft and Call of Duty. The company also licenses some Marvel comic book characters, including Spider-Man, for video games. ATVI has been a leader in games for consoles and personal computers as well as in multi-player online gaming. To boost its presence in the growing mobile gaming segment, the company announced in October that it would buy King Digital, producer of the popular Candy Crush series, for $5.9 billion.
4. Total System Services (TSS) +64.78%
This data-processing company handles transactions and payments for issuers of credit and debit cards in the U.S. and abroad. Third-quarter revenue advanced almost 15% over the same period in 2014, while costs declined. As a result, the company posted earnings of $0.65 a share in 2015 Q3, up 44% for the year-earlier period. It reported that its North American transactions for the first three quarters of the year were up 46.5% over 2014.
5. NVIDIA (NVDA) +58.20%
Known for its graphics processors used in personal computers, NVIDIA is coping with the long-term decline in PC sales by focusing on products for the cloud, mobile and automotive markets. Strong demand from non-PC customers boosted fiscal third-quarter revenues by 6.5%. Meanwhile, declining costs improved profitability. For the quarter, NVDIA earned $0.44, up from $0.31 in the same period a year ago.
Worst S&P 500 Performers through November 30
1. CONSOL Energy (CNX) -76.67%
Knowing that the company was founded as Consolidated Coal, you understand why the stock plunged this year. The coal industry is under pressure because of climate change. Even more important, though, is that cleaner natural gas is now a cheaper source of fuel for many users. That’s actually a silver lining for Consol, which also produces natural gas. The company has sold off some coal operations and many observers expect it to divest the remaining assets and become a pure play gas producer. Since natural gas prices are expected to rebound eventually, that could be the reason the stock climbed more than 18% in November.
2. Chesapeake Energy (CHK) -73.07%
The downdraft in energy prices hit this gas and oil producer hard. It is the second-largest natural gas producer in the country. The company’s losses through the first three quarters totaled $19.07 a share versus a profit of $1.02 over the same period last year. In the third quarter, it increased production by 3% over the year-ago period. The company is not expected to return to profitability until natural gas prices head higher.
3. Southwestern Energy (SWN) -66.98%
Southwestern Energy is a low-cost exploration and production company with drilling operations in the Marcellus Shale and Fayetteville Shale formations, as well as in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Although the company reduced capital expenditures in the second quarter, it still managed to deliver record production in the third quarter. Over the first nine months of the year, the firm produced 28% more gas and oil than in the same period of 2014. Because of its efficiency and cost structure, analysts expect Southwestern's shares to recover once energy prices solidify.
4. Fossil Group (FOSL) -65.26%
This maker of fashion watches under the proprietary Fossil, Skagen, and Michele brands sells its products in more than 100 countries. Therein lies part of the stock’s problem. The strong U.S. dollar was one reason third-quarter earnings fell 39%, worse than investors were expecting. In addition, the company announced a $260 million cash deal for Misfit, a producer of wearable technology. It’s worth noting that much of the decline in the stock so far this year was in November when third-quarter earnings and the acquisition were announced.
5. Freeport-McMoRan (FCX) -64.98%
FCX is the world’s second-largest copper producer. It also mines gold and molybdenum. In 2013, the company acquired two oil and gas production companies, giving it energy assets in the U.S. Pressured by low prices for much of its output, this past March the company cut its dividend by 84%. For the first nine months of this year FCX posted a loss of $7.77 a share versus a profit of $1.47 a share in the same period of 2014.
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