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Philip van Doorn

Jan. 2, 2021, 8:17 a.m. EST

These are the best performing Nasdaq and S&P 500 stocks of 2020

COVID-19 rewarded companies at the cutting edge of mobility and remote working

By Philip van Doorn, MarketWatch

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Shares of Tesla have skyrocketed nearly 700% during 2020, while Etsy’s stock has more than tripled.

(Updates story with year-end closing prices.)

The pandemic year of 2020 was a surprising one for the stock market as the broad indexes crashed in March, only to roar back as unprecedented stimulus from the federal government and the Federal Reserve drove a tremendous amount of money into equities, even as the economy was reeling.

Below are lists of 2020’s winners among components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DOW:DJIA) , S&P 500 (S&P:SPX)  and Nasdaq-100 (AMERICAN:NDX)  indexes.

Honorable mentions, plus Tesla and a warning

Before going to the broad indexes, it’s important to note that many of this year’s highest flyers aren’t part of the S&P 500 or the Nasdaq-100 Index — or at least not yet. For the Nasdaq-100, it takes time to rebalance the index to bring the largest companies in the Nasdaq Composite Index (NASDAQ:COMP)  into the smaller subset. Here’s a list of 15 stocks that aren’t yet included in SPX or NDX but soared during 2020.

To gain entry to the S&P 500, a company’s “most recent quarter’s earnings and the sum of its trailing four consecutive quarters’ earnings must be positive” and it must also meet other requirements , according to S&P Global.

Tesla Inc. (NAS:TSLA)  met the bill and was added to the S&P 500 on Dec. 21, after the stock had skyrocketed 731% by then. The electric-vehicle maker tops the lists, below, of the year’s S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100 winners.

But Tesla’s addition to the S&P 500 following five quarters of positive earnings has raised what may be a red flag for some investors. In a note to clients on Dec. 24, Jefferies analyst Christopher Wood pointed out that when Tesla was added to the S&P, its market capitalization was greater than the combined stock-market values of Toyota, Volkswagen (ETR:XE:VOW)   (OTC:VWAGY) , General Motors Co. (NYS:GM) , Ford Motor Co. (NYS:F) , Honda Motor Co. (NYS:HMC)  and Nissan Motor Co. (OTC:NSANY) . Wood added that all those firms were “busy spending serious amounts of money in electric vehicles, lured by various incentives, be they subsides or fines.”

Here’s the kicker: Wood wrote that as far as he could tell, “Tesla only generates profits at present by selling tax credits,” which are payments to Tesla by other auto manufacturers who make too few electric vehicles to satisfy regulators. Wood continued: “So in this respect, as noted in an excellent article in The Wall Street Journal in August, the irony is that Tesla is worth more than most of the industry it relies on for the subsidies that are the only reason it has been able to report five consecutive quarters of profits .” (The italics are mine.)

More on Tesla and credits: Tesla plays smoke and mirrors with profits again


Perhaps surprisingly, none of the high-profile FAANG stocks — Facebook Inc. (NAS:FB) , Amazon.com Inc. (NAS:AMZN) , Apple Inc. (NAS:AAPL) , Netflix Inc. (NAS:NFLX) and Google holding company Alphabet Inc. (NAS:GOOGL) (NAS:GOOG) — made the S&P 500 list of 20 best performers.

However, Amazon and Apple made the list of top 20 Nasdaq-100 performers, and Apple topped the Dow 30 components. Here’s how the other FAANGs performed in 2020:

• Facebook climbed 33%.

• Netflix jumped 67%.

• Alphabet’s Class C shares and Class A shares gained 31%.

Best-performing S&P 500 stocks of 2020

The S&P 500 rose 16.3% in 2020. (All price changes in this article exclude dividends.) Here are the 20 components of the benchmark index that showed the biggest gains:

Company Ticker  Industry  Price change - 2020
 Tesla Inc.  (NAS:TSLA)    Motor Vehicles  743%
 Etsy Inc.  (NAS:ETSY)    Miscellaneous Commercial Services  302%
 Nvidia Corp.  (NAS:NVDA)    Semiconductors  122%
 PayPal Holdings Inc.  (NAS:PYPL)    Data Processing Services  117%
 L Brands Inc.  (NYS:LB)    Apparel/Footwear Retail  105%
 Albemarle Corp.  (NYS:ALB)    Chemicals: Specialty  102%
 Advanced Micro Devices Inc.  (NAS:AMD)    Semiconductors  100%
 Freeport-McMoRan Inc.  (NYS:FCX)    Other Metals/Minerals  98%
 Cadence Design Systems Inc.  (NAS:CDNS)    Software  97%
 ServiceNow Inc.  (NYS:NOW)    Information Technology Services  95%
 Align Technology Inc.  (NAS:ALGN)    Medical Specialties  92%
 Idexx Laboratories Inc.  (NAS:IDXX)    Medical Specialties  91%
 Abiomed Inc.  (NAS:ABMD)    Medical Specialties  90%
 West Pharmaceutical Services Inc.  (NYS:WST)    Medical Specialties  88%
 Synopsys Inc.  (NAS:SNPS)    Software  86%
 Catalent Inc.  (NYS:CTLT)    Pharmaceuticals: Other  85%
 Apple Inc.  (NAS:AAPL)    Telecommunications Equipment  81%
 Quanta Services Inc.  (NYS:PWR)    Engineering & Construction  77%
 Rollins Inc.  (NYS:ROL)    Other Consumer Services  77%
 Amazon.com Inc.  (NAS:AMZN)    Internet Retail  76%
Source: FactSet

Click on the tickers for more about each company, including news coverage, profiles, price ratios, ratings and charts.


The Nasdaq-100 leapt a whopping 47.6% in 2020, while the full Nasdaq Composite Index rose 43.7%. Like the S&P 500, the Nasdaq and Nasdaq-100 are weighted by market capitalization, which means big tech names have driven the indexes’ strong performance.

Here are the 20 best-performing stocks of 2020 among the Nasdaq-100:

Company Ticker  Industry  Price change - 2020
 Tesla Inc.  (NAS:TSLA)    Motor Vehicles  743%
 Moderna Inc.  (NAS:MRNA)    Biotechnology  434%
 Peloton Interactive Inc. Class A  (NAS:PTON)    Other Consumer Services  434%
 Zoom Video Communications Inc. Class A  (NAS:ZM)    Software  396%
 Pinduoduo Inc. Sponsored ADR Class A  (NAS:PDD)    Internet Retail  370%
 DocuSign Inc.  (NAS:DOCU)    Software  200%
 MercadoLibre Inc.  (NAS:MELI)    Internet Software/Services  193%
 Okta Inc. Class A  (NAS:OKTA)    Software  120%
 Nvidia Corp.  (NAS:NVDA)    Semiconductors  122%
 PayPal Holdings Inc.  (NAS:PYPL)    Data Processing Services  117%
 Advanced Micro Devices Inc.  (NAS:AMD)    Semiconductors  100%
 Cadence Design Systems Inc.  (NAS:CDNS)    Software  97%
 Atlassian Corp. PLC Class A  (NAS:TEAM)    Software  94%
 Idexx Laboratories Inc.  (NAS:IDXX)    Medical Specialties  91%
 Align Technology Inc.  (NAS:ALGN)    Medical Specialties  92%
 Apple Inc.  (NAS:AAPL)    Telecommunications Equipment  81%
 Synopsys Inc.  (NAS:SNPS)    Software  86%
 Amazon.com Inc.  (NAS:AMZN)    Internet Retail  76%
 Marvell Technology Group Ltd.  (NAS:MRVL)    Semiconductors  79%
 T-Mobile US Inc.  (NAS:TMUS)    Wireless Telecommunications  72%
Source: FactSet

The good, old Dow

By comparison, the Dow Jones Industrial Average added a relatively paltry 7.2% in 2020. Three changes were made to the 30-stock index on Aug: 31:

• Salesforce.com Inc. (NYS:CRM)  was added, replacing Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYS:XOM)

• Honewell International Inc. (NYS:HON)  replaced Raytheon Technologies Corp. (NYS:RTX) .

• Amgen Inc. (NAS:AMGN)  replaced Pfizer Inc. (NYS:PFE) .

Here’s how all 30 current components of the Dow performed in 2020:

Company Ticker Price change - 2020
Apple Inc. (NAS:AAPL)   81%
Microsoft Corp. (NAS:MSFT)   41%
Nike Inc. Class B (NYS:NKE)   40%
Salesforce.com Inc. (NYS:CRM)   37%
Walt Disney Co. (NYS:DIS)   25%
Caterpillar Inc. (NYS:CAT)   23%
Home Depot Inc. (NYS:HD)   22%
Walmart Inc. (NYS:WMT)   21%
Honeywell International Inc. (NYS:HON)   20%
UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYS:UNH)   19%
Visa Inc. Class A (NYS:V)   16%
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYS:GS)   15%
Procter & Gamble Co. (NYS:PG)   11%
McDonald's Corp. (NYS:MCD)   9%
Johnson & Johnson (NYS:JNJ)   8%
Travelers Cos. Inc. (NYS:TRV)   2%
Dow Inc. (NYS:DOW)   1%
Coca-Cola Co. (NYS:KO)   -1%
3M Co. (NYS:MMM)   -1%
American Express Co. (NYS:AXP)   -3%
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYS:VZ)   -4%
Amgen Inc. (NAS:AMGN)   -5%
International Business Machines Corp. (NYS:IBM)   -6%
Cisco Systems Inc. (NAS:CSCO)   -7%
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (NYS:JPM)   -9%
Merck & Co. Inc. (NYS:MRK)   -10%
Intel Corp. (NAS:INTC)   -17%
Chevron Corp. (NYS:CVX)   -30%
Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc (NAS:WBA)   -32%
Boeing Co. (NYS:BA)   -34%
Source: FactSet

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