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

By Philip van Doorn, MarketWatch

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

(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 , S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100 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 into the smaller subset. Here's a list of 15 stocks that aren't yet included in SPX or NDX (link) 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 (link) (link), according to S&P Global.

Tesla Inc. (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 (link) 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 (VOW3.XE) , General Motors Co. (GM), Ford Motor Co. (F), Honda Motor Co. (7267.TO) and Nissan Motor Co. (7201.TO). 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 (link)

The FAANGs

Perhaps surprisingly, none of the high-profile FAANG stocks -- Facebook Inc. (FB), Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), Apple Inc. (AAPL), Netflix Inc. (NFLX) and Google holding company Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL)(GOOGL) -- 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.                          US:TSLA     Motor Vehicles                      743% 
 Etsy Inc.                           US:ETSY     Miscellaneous Commercial Services   302% 
 Nvidia Corp.                        US:NVDA     Semiconductors                      122% 
 PayPal Holdings Inc.                US:PYPL     Data Processing Services            117% 
 L Brands Inc.                       US:LB     Apparel/Footwear Retail             105% 
 Albemarle Corp.                     US:ALB     Chemicals: Specialty                102% 
 Advanced Micro Devices Inc.         US:AMD     Semiconductors                      100% 
 Freeport-McMoRan Inc.               US:FCX     Other Metals/Minerals               98% 
 Cadence Design Systems Inc.         US:CDNS     Software                            97% 
 ServiceNow Inc.                     US:NOW     Information Technology Services     95% 
 Align Technology Inc.               US:ALGN     Medical Specialties                 92% 
 Idexx Laboratories Inc.             US:IDXX     Medical Specialties                 91% 
 Abiomed Inc.                        US:ABMD     Medical Specialties                 90% 
 West Pharmaceutical Services Inc.   US:WST     Medical Specialties                 88% 
 Synopsys Inc.                       US:SNPS     Software                            86% 
 Catalent Inc.                       US:CTLT     Pharmaceuticals: Other              85% 
 Apple Inc.                          US:AAPL     Telecommunications Equipment        81% 
 Quanta Services Inc.                US:PWR     Engineering & Construction          77% 
 Rollins Inc.                        US:ROL     Other Consumer Services             77% 
 Amazon.com Inc.                     US:AMZN     Internet Retail                     76% 
                                                                                        Source: FactSet 

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

Nasdaq-100

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

-- Honewell International Inc. (HON) replaced Raytheon Technologies Corp. (RTX).

-- Amgen Inc. (AMGN) replaced Pfizer Inc.(PFE).

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

Company                                Ticker  Price change - 2020 
Apple Inc.                             US:AAPL                    81% 
Microsoft Corp.                        US:MSFT                    41% 
Nike Inc. Class B                      US:NKE                    40% 
Salesforce.com Inc.                    US:CRM                    37% 
Walt Disney Co.                        US:DIS                    25% 
Caterpillar Inc.                       US:CAT                    23% 
Home Depot Inc.                        US:HD                    22% 
Walmart Inc.                           US:WMT                    21% 
Honeywell International Inc.           US:HON                    20% 
UnitedHealth Group Inc.                US:UNH                    19% 
Visa Inc. Class A                      US:V                    16% 
Goldman Sachs Group Inc.               US:GS                    15% 
Procter & Gamble Co.                   US:PG                    11% 
McDonald's Corp.                       US:MCD                     9% 
Johnson & Johnson                      US:JNJ                     8% 
Travelers Cos. Inc.                    US:TRV                     2% 
Dow Inc.                               US:DOW                     1% 

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01-02-21 0817ET

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