10 Incredibly Surprising Best-Performing S&P 500 Stocks of 2019

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The carnage of late 2018 was replaced almost immediately with the return of the big bull market through the entire first quarter of 2019. And with the start of the second quarter running smoothly ahead of earnings season, now the indexes are all having a solid performance in 2019.

As of Friday, the major index exchange traded funds were showing solid year-to-date gains: Nasdaq-100 up 19%, S&P 500 up about 15% and the Dow Jones industrials up 13%.

There is a stock market expression that a rising tide lifts all ships, and some of the S&P 500’s top gainers so far in 2019 have been companies that might seem rather surprising because they aren’t ones that the investing community normally would be stepping all over itself to own the shares.

24/7 Wall St. used a screen from Finviz and Refinitiv data for figures about year-to-date (YTD) performance metrics. We added trading information and additional color for the logic behind each gain, and some deserved more coverage than others, without covering every single gainer. A specific issue was targeting the leader of each of the major sectors that was still greatly outperforming the broader index gains, so some of the ones right behind the performance in each sector may have been counted behind each named leader.

Here are the ten biggest, and perhaps unusual, top year-to-date performers of the S&P 500 as of Friday, April 5, 2019.

The Best Performer Is Xerox, Up 67%

Many people might wonder if Xerox Corp. (NYSE: XRX) still had a place in the future. Xerox has been the top stock performer in the S&P 500m with a whopping 67% year-to-date gain. Trading at $33.30 late on Friday, it has a 52-week range is $18.58 to $33.67 and a consensus target price is $35.50.

The company recently adopted a holding company strategy. Xerox unveiled a new services offering to advance digital transformations, and the company is exploring strategic alternatives to sell is customer financing business. While the gains have been massive in 2019, Xerox lost over one-third of its value in November and December’s selling carnage, and the stock is really up a more reasonable 15% from that pre-flop peak of $29 or so in November.

Chipotle Is Up 63%

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (NYSE: CMG) is no longer in the business of giving its customers Montezuma’s revenge. The company has taken a more disciplined store opening approach and has emerged with its own loyalty program and appears to be coming on strong with digital orders. Chipotle was the second-best S&P 500 stock YTD, with a gain of close to 63%.

Analysts have been playing catch up with big upgrades and price target hikes, and this stock surged above and beyond most analyst expectations. With shares close to $705, the recent consensus price target of $571.78 shows just how far behind they have been.

The street-high price target is $760 here, and it just seems as if it’s safe to wonder if and when some analyst or investor will come out with a $1,000 share price target, given the nature of the history of investors (analysts and hedge funds too) chasing performance and momentum.

Delphi Technologies Is Up 60%

Delphi Technologies PLC (NYSE: DLPH) seems surprising to see in the top performer list at all, let alone as the third best S&P 500 member with a 60% gain YTD, considering the continued overhang with peak auto having already been seen. Delphi makes and sells integrated powertrain technologies for the auto industry through its Powertrain Systems and Delphi Technologies Aftermarket segments.

Its chart has done well and is breaking out, if you just looked the 2019 performance. But with shares close to $23.45, it has a 52-week range of $13.18 to $53.78, which should paint a better picture of “great today maybe not so great over time.” Delphi’s consensus target price is $24.56.

AMD Is Up 57%

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD) may not be a surprise to the AMD fans, but some of the demand reports and chip reports for 2019 have been less robust than many of the chip stocks might be indicating. Still, AMD did win recent GPU partnerships for new age gaming trends. AMD shares were soft on Friday, with shares down around $28.90, but the stock screened out as being up 57% YTD. It was the fourth best performing S&P 500 stock so far this year.

AMD’s 52-week range is $9.50 to $34.14, and analysts have very mixed views, with the consensus analyst target being closer to $25. The street-high target is up at $42. Xilinx Inc. (NASDAQ: XLNX) was next in line as the fifth best S&P 500 stock with 50% YTD gain, and IPG Photonics Corp. (NASDAQ: IPGP) was the eighth best with a 48% gain.

Hess Is Up 50%

Hess Corp. (NYSE: HES) was the best energy performer so far in 2019, and it was the sixth best-performing S&P 500 stock with a 50% gain YTD. The bulk of that move took place in January. What’s interesting here is that earnings and revenue trends for the exploration and production company, offshore and midstream, are not currently expected to make a great rebound until 2020.

With shares at $62.25 late on Friday, it has a 52-week range of $35.59 to $74.81, and its consensus target price is $66.25. This was a $72 stock in October.

Arista Is Up 48%

Arista Networks Inc. (NYSE: ANET) is a cloud networking solutions provider, and it was the seventh best S&P 500 performer in 2019, with a 48% gain YTD. Goldman Sachs reiterated its Buy rating in March and raised its target to $360 from $300, and that is not even the street-high target.

Trading at $313.50 on Friday, it has a 52-week range of $187.08 to $325.00. The consensus target price is $303.72. Arista shares also hit all-time highs in recent days. Many investors would be hard pressed even to know who Arista Networks is.

Celgene Is Up 47%

Celgene Corp. (NASDAQ: CELG) is the number one health care stock of 2019, with a gain of 47% YTD. That said, it’s because Bristol-Myers Squibb decided to reach deep down in its pockets and pull out enough cash to acquire one of the top biotechs in the nation. Enough said.

Hanesbrands Is Up 46%

Hanesbrands Inc. (NYSE: HBI) may be best known for its tighty-whities and undershirts, but it also has Champion for athletic apparel, and it makes apparel for many brand names. While it still has not recovered to last summer’s highs, Hanesbrands was last seen up about 46% YTD and was the 10th best performing S&P 500 stock thus far.

With shares around $18.60 on Friday, the consensus target price is $19.17, and the 52-week range is $11.57 to $22.57. This was nearly a $35 stock back in 2015.

Honorable Mention: Synchrony Financial, Up Over 38%

Synchrony Financial (NYSE: SYF) was only listed as the 24th best gainer of the S&P 500 YTD, but it was the highest ranking company we would consider to be a pure-play financial stock. It was up over 38.5% YTD, with its best gap in January, but for a better reference that was still down 4% from a year ago.

Synchrony’s $32.40 share price late on Friday compares with a 52-week range of $21.77 to $36.32 and a consensus target price of $37.11. Navient Corp. (NASDAQ: NAVI) was actually a slight bit better leader, with a 38.6% gain YTD, but it is considered to be more of a student loan company after being part of the Sallie Mae split.

Honorable Mention: General Electric, Up 38%

General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) also deserves an honorable mention here. While its gain of almost 38% YTD was ranked as the 26th best among the S&P 500 stocks, this is still down 12% from a year ago. GE still would have to rally more than 200% to reach anywhere close to its post-recession highs. Sometimes the biggest losers of one period end up being the biggest gainers from snapback moves in later periods.

Shares of GE saw a two-cent decline on Friday for a $10.01 closing price. GE’s 52-week range is $6.40 to $14.99, and its consensus target price was listed up at $12.54 on last look.

Investors may scratch their heads over why some of these companies have such strong gains, considering that some of the businesses are running quite well while others may have structural or industry issues working against them. Whether readers here are investors or traders, no one should chase performance merely because a stock (or a group or the market) has been rising rather than falling. A review from StockCharts.com also has been provided here on each.


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