So far, 2012 has been a swell year for investors, as stocks have taken off. Over the past week, we saw markets cheering a proposal by the International Monetary Fund to raise $600 billion in new funds to help it address the eurozone debt crisis. Strong earnings results from financial companies such as Goldman Sachs and Bank of America as well as tech bellwethers like IBM and Intel also helped drive stocks forward.
For the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) tacked on 2.4%, while the broader Russell 3000 added 2.1%. The specific sector earnings results as well as a general move toward growth-oriented industries helped push the gains in a few sectors above the average.
Top 3 Performing Sectors
Russell 3000 Sector
Weekly Price Change
Month-to-Date Price Change
Source: S&P Capital IQ. Weekly price change is Jan. 13-Jan. 20. Monthly price change is Dec. 30-Jan. 20.
Before I even write this, let me emphasize that it is not a typo. Sears Holdings (NAS: SHLD) was among the top-performing stocks in the Russell 3000, with a weekly gain of an eye-popping 46%. As 2011 closed out, investors were fretting over the sorry state of the retailer's ... well, retail operations. Then, more recently, the concerns deepened after CIT Group stopped providing financing to Sears' vendors.
So what turned it all around this week? First of all, CIT is reportedly resuming financing for Sears' vendors. Maybe more importantly, though, there was some pretty serious speculation that the two investors who already own most of the company -- Eddie Lampert and Bruce Berkowitz -- may buy out the whole darn thing and take the company private.
Representing the energy sector among the top performers was oil and natural gas explorer Venoco (NYS: VQ) . The reason? The company agreed to its CEO's buyout offer of $1.5 billion. The interesting part of this particular buyout is that Timothy Marquez had offered to take the company private for the same price over the summer and was hit with a shareholder lawsuit for his troubles. After spending a few months soliciting other offers, though, the company's board of directors concluded that, yup, Marquez's is, in fact, the best offer.
Top 3 Performing Russell 3000 Companies
Weekly Price Change
Source: S&P Capital IQ. Weekly price change is Jan. 13-Jan. 20. Includes only companies with a market cap of $250 million or higher.
Also among the week's top performers were Cree (NAS: CREE) and Skyworks Solutions (NAS: SWKS) . It's pretty surprising that Cree's stock managed to jump almost 19% this week. With both the revenue and earnings numbers in its earnings release missing estimates, it's hard to describe it as anything other than a disappointing report. However, there were a few Wall Street analysts that pounded the table on the company's longer-term prospects, and there was a very significant tech -- and semiconductor, specifically -- surge this week that Cree was no doubt riding.
Skyworks, meanwhile, snagged its 21% weekly gain the old-fashioned way -- it topped analyst estimates on both the top and bottom line. And, of course, like Cree, it was riding the semiconductor-focused investor feeding frenzy during the week.
That's it for this week's top-performers recap. If you're looking for some ideas for strong outperformers in the new year, The Motley Fool has created a brand new free report titled "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012." In it, my fellow Fools reveal a top pick that's poised for explosive growth ahead. Get instant access -- it's free.
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