Telecom, Tech Lift S'P 500 YTD

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The S&P 500 Index, the most widely watched measuring stick of U.S. equities and the benchmark behind the world's largest ETF, the SPDR S&P 500 (NYSEArca:SPY), has tagged on gains of 11.8 percent year-to-date thanks to some stellar performances among its underlying stocks.

Telecommunications giant Sprint Nextel ( S ) currently leads the tally of 500 securities that are included in the index, with year-to-date gains of 115.8 percent. Seagate Technology (Nasdaq:STX) is a close second, with gains of some 108.5 percent, according to data compiled by S&P.

What's interesting is that among the top-performing stocks is a broad array of economic sectors that include technology, financials, consumer-focused and home-building companies-all of which point to an economic environment that isn't necessarily leaving anyone behind.

From a sector perspective, telecommunications and information technology have led the broad equities benchmark, with gains of roughly 19 percent and 18 percent, respectively, year-to-date, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices data on its website.

But financials and consumer discretionary aren't far behind, each rallying around 14.5 percent since the beginning of the year, while health care is up 11 percent. At the other end of the spectrum are utilities and energy-the two lowest-returning sectors year-to-date-but even they have each climbed some 3.5 percent.

All in all, the S&P 500 Index has tagged on almost 12 percent in gains so far this year, and now sits just above the 1,400 mark.

Apple Inc., the index's single largest holding by market capitalization and one that represents 4.6 percent of the S&P 500 portfolio, has rallied 55.5 percent so far this year, but its performance doesn't quite make the cut into the top 10 S&P 500 stocks of 2012. Apple comes in 12 th place.

The benchmark's other top holdings by market cap, including the likes of Exxon Mobil, IBM, Microsoft, Chevron and General Electric, are not among the best-performing stocks year-to-date. The S&P 500's top holdings represent a 21 percent share of the benchmark's market capitalization.

By comparison, best-performing names Sprint Nextel and Seagate represent roughly 0.1 percent of the total pie, with home builder Pulte Group coming in with a 0.03 percent weighting.

Following is the tally, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices data as of Aug. 14:

Company

Ticker

Year-to-date Returns

Sprint Nextel

NYSE:S

115.80%

Seagate Technology

Nasdaq:STX

108.50%

PulteGroup

NYSE:PHM

97.10%

The Gap

NYSE:GPS

86.60%

Expedia

Nasdaq:EXPE

85.50%

Sears Holdings

Nasdaq:SHLD

71%

Regions Financials Corp.

NYSE:RF

62.50%

Lennar Corp.

NYSE:LEN

58.90%

Sherwin Williams

NYSE:SHW

57.90%

Teradata Corp.

NYSE:TDC

56.60%

ETFs Follow The Lead

The SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSEArca:SPY), which replicates the performance of the S&P 500, has also gained nearly 12 percent since the beginning of the year. Also, its assets have jumped to $105 billion, making it the biggest ETF in the world by a solid margin.

But other ETFs that serve up exposure to some of the same winning stocks helping buoy the S&P 500 have also benefited from the strength in the underlying stocks.

Perhaps no performance is more telling than that of house-construction-focused iShares Dow Jones US Home Construction Index Fund (NYSEArca:ITB), which currently holds the distinction of being the single best-performing ETF in 2012 with gains of more than 45 percent year-to-date.

Among the $757 million fund's top three holdings are two of S&P 500's best-performing underlying stocks-Lennar Corp and Pulte Group Inc., each of which represents just over 9 percent of the portfolio.

Another iShares ETF, the iShares Dow Jones U.S. telecommunications Sector Index Fund (NYSEArca:IYZ) is an example of the power of individual securities. The fund allocates 8.2 percent of its portfolio to Sprint Nextel, which has tallied up gains of more than 113 percent so far this year.

AT&T, which comes in as IYZ's largest holding, with a 16.7 percent weighting, has also returned a sizable 23.2 percent in the same period, numbers that have helped IYZ ride above the market with year-to-date gains of 15.8 percent.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.



This article appears in: Investing , ETFs

Referenced Stocks: ITB , IYZ , S , SPY

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