By Philip van Doorn
(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 /zigman2/quotes/209723049/delayed CL00 -0.32% rose 55%.
The following are lists of the best-performing stocks among the benchmark S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +2.39% , the the S&P 400 Mid Cap Index /zigman2/quotes/219506813/composite MID +5.32% , the S&P Small Cap 600 Index /zigman2/quotes/210599868/delayed SML +2.40% and the Nasdaq-100 Index /zigman2/quotes/210598364/realtime NDX +3.70% . Then there’s a list showing how all 30 components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +1.47% 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:
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. /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +3.19% , Microsoft Corp. /zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite MSFT +2.26% , Amazon.com Inc. /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN +5.73% , Alphabet Inc /zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite GOOGL +2.84% /zigman2/quotes/205453964/composite GOOG +2.96% and Tesla Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203558040/composite TSLA +5.71% — made up 23% of the SPDR S&P 500 ETF /zigman2/quotes/209901640/composite SPY +2.39% 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.||/zigman2/quotes/209479244/composite DVN||Oil & Gas Production||196.1%|
|Marathon Oil Corp.||/zigman2/quotes/205031829/composite MRO||Oil & Gas Production||149.7%|
|Moderna Inc.||/zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA||Biotechnology||143.1%|
|Fortinet Inc.||/zigman2/quotes/205733290/composite FTNT||Computer Communications||142.0%|
|Signature Bank||/zigman2/quotes/204403715/composite SBNY||Regional Banks||141.5%|
|Ford Motor Co.||/zigman2/quotes/208911460/composite F||Motor Vehicles||137.5%|
|Bath & Body Works Inc.||/zigman2/quotes/202062875/composite BBWI||Retail||133.7%|
|Diamondback Energy Inc.||/zigman2/quotes/201200230/composite FANG||Oil & Gas Production||127.4%|
|Nvidia Corp.||/zigman2/quotes/200467500/composite NVDA||Semiconductors||125.5%|
|Nucor Corp.||/zigman2/quotes/201889722/composite NUE||Steel||118.4%|
|Gartner Inc.||/zigman2/quotes/205782082/composite IT||Internet Software, Services||108.7%|
|Extra Space Storage Inc.||/zigman2/quotes/208054924/composite EXR||Real Estate Investment Trusts||101.0%|
|Arista Networks Inc.||/zigman2/quotes/206966450/composite ANET||Computer Communications||97.9%|
|Simon Property Group Inc.||/zigman2/quotes/209746667/composite SPG||Real Estate Investment Trusts||95.8%|
|APA Corp.||/zigman2/quotes/200648444/composite APA||Integrated Oil||90.8%|
|EOG Resources Inc.||/zigman2/quotes/204634330/composite EOG||Oil & Gas Production||88.7%|
|Iron Mountain Inc.||/zigman2/quotes/208929343/composite IRM||Real Estate Investment Trusts||87.8%|
|Seagate Technology Holdings PLC||/zigman2/quotes/201824240/composite STX||Computer Peripherals||87.6%|
|CF Industries Holdings Inc.||/zigman2/quotes/209482112/composite CF||Chemicals||87.1%|
|ConocoPhillips||/zigman2/quotes/207605056/composite COP||Oil & Gas Production||86.7%|
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. /zigman2/quotes/208911460/composite F +8.52% 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. /zigman2/quotes/205226835/composite GM +7.45% 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.
Best-performing midcap stocks
Remember the meme stocks? Of course you do. GameStop Corp /zigman2/quotes/203755179/composite GME +9.85% . led this craze, as traders banded together through the wallstreetbets Reddit channel in early 2021 to bid up the prices of heavily shorted stocks.