Market Returns: 2011's Top Stocks

Investors know 2011 was a tough one for the markets. Between troubles at home and abroad, the market jerked in every direction with no rhyme or reason.

As of December, the S&P 500 had netted 0.9%, and it actually lost 1% if dividends aren't included, reports Bloomberg.


But not everything was a downer; there were some names that refused to acknowledge the sorry conditions around it and rose in value anyway.

There were 80 stocks in the S&P 500 that returned 20% or more in 2011 -- a figure that prompted Bloomberg to analyze S&P 500 returns as of Dec. 2 to determine which stocks were best and worst to shareholders in 2011.

Let's take a look at 2011's 10 best performers and what Bloomberg has to say about them (for the year's worst performers, click here):

Interactive Chart: Use the Compar-O-Matic to compare analyst ratings for the first nine stocks mentioned below. (Click here to access free, interactive tools to analyze these ideas.)

1. Cabot Oil & Gas (NYS: COG) : Engages in oil exploration, development, exploitation, and production. Market cap of $7.53B. Total Return: 128.8%. On Oct. 27, the company reported that gas and oil production was up 39% from a year ago. The company also estimated production could expand 45% to 55% in 2012, a projection Global Hunter Securities analyst Dan Morrison called "eye-popping." After a solid performance over the last year, COG has pulled back during recent sessions.

2. El Paso (NYS: EP) : Operates in the natural gas transmission, and exploration and production sectors of the energy industry primarily in the United States. Market cap of $19.07B. Total Return: 84.2%. Shares rose in January when the company forecast "double digit" earnings growth in 2012. Then, on Oct. 17, shares surged higher still on news that competitor Kinder Morgan (KMI) would buy El Paso for $21.1 billion, 37% more than its closing price on Oct. 14.

3. MasterCard (NYS: MA) : Provides transaction processing and related services to customers principally in support of their credit, deposit access, electronic cash and automated teller machine payment card programs, and travelers' cheque programs. Market cap of $45.59B. Total Return: 69.2%. The world's second-largest payment network processed $2.1 trillion in credit- and debit-card purchases in 2010. In 2011, the company's rising profit and market share boosted the stock. On Nov. 2, the company reported that net income rose 38% amid a 21% rise in credit card spending.

4. Biogen Idec (NAS: BIIB) : Develops, manufactures, and markets therapeutics in the areas of neurology, immunology, hemophilia, and oncology in the United States and internationally. Market cap of $26.66B. Total Return: 68.9%. Thanks to studies showing the effectiveness of the experimental MS pill BG-12. Analysts estimated the product could bring in annual sales of as much as $3 billion.

5. Intuitive Surgical (NAS: ISRG) : Designs, manufactures, and markets da Vinci surgical systems for various surgical procedures, including urologic, gynecologic, cardiothoracic, general, and head and neck surgeries. Market cap of $16.70B. Total Return: 68.3%. In October the company announced that it expects sales to rise as much as 23% this year. The company's main product robotic "da Vinci" surgical system, converts doctor's hand motions into tiny movements inside a patient.

6. Humana (NYS: HUM) : Offers various health and supplemental benefit plans in the United States. Market cap of $13.83B. Total Return: 63.8%. The company hit its highest price in four years on Oct. 31 after forecasts and earnings beat analyst estimates.

7. V.F. Corporation (NYS: VFC) : Designs and manufactures, or sources from independent contractors various apparel and footwear products primarily in the United States and Europe. Market cap of $14.37B. Total Return: 63.8%. Shares surged in June after the company made moves to buy Timberland Co. for $1.97 billion. VF said in October that it expects 2011 sales to rise 22% to 23%. After a solid performance over the last year, VFC has pulled back during recent sessions.

8. Range Resources (NYS: RRC) : Engages in the acquisition, exploration, and development of natural gas properties primarily in the Appalachian and southwestern regions of the United States. Market cap of $9.63B. Total Return: 57.2%. "Shares surged in October on speculation that another energy producer may want to buy the company, which owns 1.2 million net acres of the Marcellus Shale natural gas field."

9. Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYS: CMG) : Develops and operates fast-casual, fresh Mexican food restaurants in the United States. Market cap of $9.97B. Total Return: 55.4%. "Shares are up more than 400% since 2008, a period when sales have risen more than 60% and profit rose 160%."

10. ONEOK (NYS: OKE) : Operates as a natural gas distributor primarily in the United States. Market cap of $8.49B. Total Return: 54.6%. "Shares hit a record high on Dec. 1, the day it announced it would exit the retail marketing business by selling a subsidiary. A month earlier, the pipeline company projected 2011 net income would beat previous estimates by $110 million, or 17%."

Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in analyst ratings over the last two years for the stocks mentioned above. Analyst ratings sourced from Zacks Investment Research.

Kapitall's Rebecca Lipman does not own any of the shares mentioned above. Data sourced from Bloomberg and Finviz.

At the time thisarticle was published The Motley Fool owns shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill and MasterCard. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Range Resources, ONEOK, Intuitive Surgical, and Chipotle Mexican Grill. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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