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

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By Philip van Doorn

Top performers included oil producers, Moderna, Ford and Nvidia

The performance of the stock market in 2021 has been 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 rose 58%.

The following are lists of the best-performing stocks among the benchmark S&P 500 index , the the S&P 400 Mid Cap Index (MID), the S&P Small Cap 600 Index and the Nasdaq-100 Index . Then there’s a list showing how all 30 components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average 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 through Dec. 29:

The S&P 500 had the top spot with a 29.4% return through Dec. 29, although it had pulled back from its high on Nov. 9, when it was up 32% for 2021.

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), Inc. (AMZN), Alphabet Inc (GOOGL)(GOOGL) and Tesla Inc. (TSLA) — made up 23% of the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) as of the close on Dec. 29.

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 through Dec. 29 
Devon Energy Corp.                DVN    Oil & Gas Production                                          197.1% 
Marathon Oil Corp.                MRO    Oil & Gas Production                                          152.0% 
Fortinet Inc.                     FTNT   Computer Communications                                       146.9% 
Signature Bank                    SBNY   Regional Banks                                                139.6% 
Moderna Inc.                      MRNA   Biotechnology                                                 137.3% 
Ford Motor Co.                     F     Motor Vehicles                                                135.1% 
Bath & Body Works Inc.            BBWI   Retail                                                        132.7% 
Nvidia Corp.                      NVDA   Semiconductors                                                130.0% 
Diamondback Energy Inc.           FANG   Oil & Gas Production                                          129.3% 
Nucor Corp.                       NUE    Steel                                                         118.9% 
Gartner Inc.                       IT    Internet Software, Services                                   109.9% 
Arista Networks Inc.              ANET   Computer Communications                                       100.6% 
Extra Space Storage Inc.          EXR    Real Estate Investment Trusts                                  99.8% 
APA Corp.                         APA    Integrated Oil                                                 98.0% 
CF Industries Holdings Inc.        CF    Chemicals: Agricultural                                        95.0% 
Simon Property Group Inc.         SPG    Real Estate Investment Trusts                                  94.5% 
Seagate Technology Holdings PLC   STX    Computer Peripherals                                           90.9% 
EOG Resources Inc.                EOG    Oil & Gas Production                                           90.9% 
Iron Mountain Inc.                IRM    Real Estate Investment Trusts                                  89.3% 
EPAM Systems Inc.                 EPAM   Information Technology Services                                89.2% 
                                                                                              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, five were oil producers.

Ford Motor Co. (F) was up 135%, 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” 37.4% in 2021 through Dec. 29 (ranking 186th among the S&P 500), while shares of Tesla were up 53.9% 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. 29, it was up 717% 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 through Dec. 29. 
GameStop Corp. Class A              GME    Electronics/ Appliance Stores                                717.0% 
Avis Budget Group Inc.              CAR    Finance, Rental, Leasing                                     453.8% 
Synaptics Inc.                      SYNA   Semiconductors                                               203.4% 
Alcoa Corp.                          AA    Aluminum                                                     159.3% 
SiTime Corp.                        SITM   Semiconductors                                               157.3% 
Macy's Inc.                          M     Department Stores                                            142.9% 
Olin Corp.                          OLN    Industrial Specialties                                       141.6% 
Navient Corp                        NAVI   Finance, Rental, Leasing                                     124.6% 
Murphy Oil Corp.                    MUR    Oil & Gas Production                                         122.2% 
Louisiana-Pacific Corp.             LPX    Forest Products                                              114.3% 
Dick's Sporting Goods Inc.          DKS    Specialty Stores                                             110.4% 
Builders FirstSource Inc.           BLDR   Building Products                                            108.4% 
Crocs Inc.                          CROX   Apparel/Footwear                                             107.4% 
Tenet Healthcare Corp.              THC    Hospital, Nursing Management                                 101.4% 
Targa Resources Corp.               TRGP   Oil Refining, Marketing                                       99.0% 
National Storage Affiliates Trust   NSA    Real Estate Investment Trusts                                 97.6% 
American Financial Group Inc.       AFG    Property/ Casualty Insurance                                  97.2% 
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.           GT    Automotive Aftermarket                                        96.2% 
Life Storage Inc.                   LSI    Real Estate Investment Trusts                                 95.3% 
Teradata Corp.                      TDC    Software                                                      95.1% 
                                                                                               Source: FactSet 

Small-cap stocks

A broad small-cap index, such as the Russell 2000 , 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 through Dec. 29 
Veritiv Corp.                        VRTV   Wholesale Distributors                                        483.9% 
SM Energy Co.                         SM    Oil & Gas Production                                          403.1% 
Apollo Medical Holdings Inc.         AMEH   Services to the Health Industry                               305.6% 
Callon Petroleum Co.                 CPE    Oil & Gas Production                                          284.6% 
Customers Bancorp Inc.               CUBI   Regional Banks                                                261.4% 
TimkenSteel Corp                     TMST   Steel                                                         256.3% 
Consol Energy Inc                    CEIX   Coal                                                          229.5% 
Laredo Petroleum Inc.                LPI    Oil & Gas Production                                          227.2% 
United Natural Foods Inc.            UNFI   Food Distributors                                             219.9% 
Cross Country Healthcare Inc.        CCRN   Personnel Services                                            218.2% 
Chico's FAS Inc.                     CHS    Apparel, Footwear Retail                                      217.0% 
Matador Resources Co.                MTDR   Oil & Gas Production                                          216.4% 
Signet Jewelers Ltd.                 SIG    Specialty Stores                                              215.4% 
Thryv Holdings Inc.                  THRY   Advertising, Marketing Services                               204.6% 
Boot Barn Holdings Inc.              BOOT   Apparel, Footwear Retail                                      189.0% 

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