In the investment community, the Standard and Poors 500 Index (S&P 500) is the most common benchmark representing the stock market as a whole. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) was at one time the most renowned index for U.S. stocks, but because the DJIA contains only 30 companies, most people agree that the S&P 500 is a better representation of the U.S. market. This is why S&P 500 Index funds are a favorite among passive ETF investors. (To learn more, see Active Vs. Passive ETF Investing)

IN PICTURES: (NYSE:) holds all 500 S&P500 stocks. The ETF, often called Spiders, closely mirrors the price performance of the S&P500. The Proshares UltraPro S&P 500 ETF (NYSE:UPRO) triples the daily price movement of the S&P 500 in either direction through the use of leverage.

However picking individual stocks may have been more profitable. In 2010, out of the 500 stocks in the index, about 400 of the component stocks have yielded positive returns.

Here are the 5 highest performing S&P 500 stocks:

Company Market Cap % Return
Cummins Inc. (NYSE:CMI) 21.42B 138.89%
Akami Technologies(Nasdaq:AKAM) 9.02B 95.30%
Qwest Communications International Inc.(NYSE:Q) 13.19B 90.68% (NYSE:CRM) 17.91B 84.79% Incorporated(Nasdaq:PCLN) 19.65B 83.25%

Bottom Line
The S&P 500 has only notched gains of about 11% so far this year, so it's a great idea to take a look at the individual stocks that are boosting this index. These stocks have achieved gains of more than 80%, and are well worth an in-depth look.

Use the Investopedia Stock Simulator to trade the stocks mentioned in this stock analysis, risk free!

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