The first quarter of 2013 is now in the books, and it was a hot one for the stock market, with the S&P 500 gaining 10 percent. Here are the 10 stocks from that index with the best performance for the quarter:
10. Dell Computer (DELL) Up 43.0 percent
Dell’s continuing dalliance with going private has been the biggest factor in pumping up its stock price. There are currently three bidders in play: a group with founder Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners; one involving legendary investor Carl Icahn; and one led by the Blackstone Group. The Blackstone offer values Dell’s stock at $14.25 a share, and the Icahn offer is $15 a share, while the stock is currently trading at $14.50. Back on Jan. 11, before Dell’s plan to return to private hands was announced, the stock was at $10.88.
9. Safeway (SWY) Up 43.7 percent
Safeway was already having a good year when its fourth-quarter earnings report came out on Feb. 21, and it was a doozy. The grocer improved its earnings per share by 58.2 percent over the same quarter a year earlier and beat the Wall Street consensus by 39.5 percent. All told, Safeway’s profits were up 17.6 percent. The stock rose 14 percent on the day of the report, and has risen another 13 percent in the month since then.
8. Marathon Petroleum Corp. (MPC) Up 44.3 percent
Marathon did all its damage in the first two months of the year: between Jan. 7 and March 4, it gained nearly 50 percent. These have been good times for the refinery business — MPC was spun out as the refining side of erstwhile parent Marathon Oil back in July 2011. A $2 billion share buyback program certainly helped things along, as well as a 40 percent increase of its dividend, which was paid out earlier this month.
7. Avon Products Inc. (AVP) Up 45.1 percent
Ding-dong! Avon had been suffering under longtime CEO Andrea Jung, who had seen the company miss earnings expectations in four out of five quarters, then withstood a bribery scandal in Avon’s overseas market. Jung was replaced in April 2012 by Sherilyn McCoy, who promptly blew an offer from rival Coty to take over Avon at about a 15 percent premium over where the stock was trading. But things started to turn around for the venerable beauty company shortly thereafter. The biggest news came in February, when the company finally came up with a solid earnings beat, and the stock popped 20 percent in a single day.
6. Tenet Healthcare (THC) Up 46.5 percent
A health care and hospital corporation based in Dallas, Tenet is a bounce-back story. After posting losses of 55 cents per share in the fourth quarter of 2011, it turned that around to a 52 cents per share gain in the fourth quarter of 2012. It also beefed up its strategic alliances during the quarter and announced in February that it would be acquiring Emanuel Medical Center in California. Badly beaten up during the market collapse of 2008, Tenet is up over 1000 percent since the S&P 500 bottomed out on March 9, 2009.
5. H&R Block (HRB) Up 55.7 percent
H&R Block doesn’t always do well during tax season; in the first quarter of 2012, its stock grew by just 2.7 percent. And being in the news this time of year isn’t necessarily a good thing, either, since Block recently had to admit it might be late in filing 600,000 returns because of a problem with a student tax credit form. And its earnings report from the quarter came in with a wider-than-expected loss. So what’s driving Block up? The problems are considered temporary, while the tax-filing business continues to grow, and Block reduced its expenses by 15 percent, raising its fiscal-year revenues by $10 million from cost-cutting alone.
4. Micron Technology (MU) Up 56.5 percent
After years of consolidation in the semiconductor memory industry, there are only four players left standing, and Micron is one of them. It’s also the only one of the four that’s not headquartered in Asia. The rise of tablets, smartphones and other electronic consumer devices means the memory area could still have strong growth ahead of it. Even though Micron came in with a loss in the quarter, it also noted that sales were up 3 percent and gross margins jumped from 10 percent to 17 percent. The stock popped 10 percent on earnings day — pretty impressive for a company reporting a loss.
3. Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) Up 65.9 percent
We wrote about this stock last week: Under new CEO Meg Whitman, Hewlett-Packard has begun slowing the horrible losses it’s shown in recent years. After rumors circulated that H-P might spin off the PC business – which has been a cornerstone since its acquisition of Compaq in 2002 – investors rejoiced when Whitman announced the company was staying intact. In addition to its printer and other businesses, H-P is the leading producer of PCs, with a 16 percent share of the market.
2. Best Buy (BBY) 91.6
A year ago this week, Best Buy was at 27.5, which makes its current share price of around 22 look pretty paltry, but it’s been to hell and back in the interim. By the beginning of this year, it had been left for dead, to the point that founder Richard Schulze tried to take the company private. Wall Street liked the sound of that, and it also liked the fact that Best Buy easily beat its earnings estimates earlier this month. The private plan seems to have fallen apart now, but this week Schulze officially returned to the fold as chairman emeritus.
1. Netflix (NFLX) 105.9
With Qwikster nothing but a dimly remembered nightmare, it’s just good times ahead for Netflix. The company completely turned around the analysts’ expectations, posting a 13 cents per share profit in January when the consensus showed a 13 cents per share loss. Subscriber numbers are up, the shrinkage in DVD customers was surprisingly small, and the overseas markets look poised to boom. The stock hasn’t moved much since that earnings report — it’s up only about 12 percent in the past two months — but that 64 percent two-day pop was enough to propel it into being the strongest S&P 500 stock for the entire quarter.
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