Of the 505 companies in the S&P 500, only 160 managed to post a positive year in 2018. That’s less than a third — not surprising when the S&P 500 is down 7%, on its way to the worst year since the Great Recession.
Still, companies from Abiomed to Zoetis and dozens of companies in between managed to post strong gains. Businesses as diverse as Macy’s and McCormick were up in 2018.
And the winner is…
Chip-maker Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) surged 73% this year, making it the top stock in the S&P 500.
Its gains are partly coming at the expense of semiconductor giant Intel (INTC), whose stock has fallen this year on concerns about lower profit margins and possible product delays.
The company’s growth is being led by CEO Lisa Su — one of the few female CEOs in tech, let alone Corporate America. With Su on board, AMD has strengthened its ties with the big PC companies like Dell and HP (HPQ).
AMD claimed the crown despite tumbling 46% since mid-September. AMD was at one point up more than 200% this year. But risk-averse investors pulled money out of tech stocks late in the year on fears of a global economic slowdown and a possible trade war escalation.
Auto parts retailers were also among the top performers in 2018. Advance Auto Parts (AAP) gained 55%, while O’Reilly Automotive (ORLY) gained 42%.
Despite Amazon gunning to sell more car parts, Advance and O’Reilly have designed vast logistics networks to deliver car parts to professional mechanics and do-it-yourself car owners right away.
Advance has close to 6,400 stores and 54 distribution centers that put them close enough to its customers to make same-day or next-day delivery a snap.
These companies have sharpened their focus on service, helping guide customers through repairs and the technical auto parts market.
Advance’s stock got a lift from a recent deal with Walmart (WMT).
Advance struck a deal this fall with the world’s largest retailer for a specialty store page on Walmart’s website. It believes the tie-up will allow it to increase its visibility online and reach more DIYers.
Travel and leisure
TripAdvisor (TRIP) was the fourth best stock of the year thanks to a healthy travel sector. But short sellers are driving up the stock, anticipating a drop next year.
“We are changing the cultural narrative around our brand,” Niccol said during a call with investors in June, adding that the company can increase sales by “reminding people why they love Chipotle.”
Niccol has taken steps to modernize Chipotle’s ordering process and make the company more competitive with other fast food and fast casual chains that have taken the leap into mobile ordering and payments.
Although AMD, TripAdvisor, Advance Auto, and Chipotle were some of the winners in the stock market, there were plenty of losers. Read about some of the worst stocks here, including one that lost 67% in 2018.