Among the investment community, the Standard & Poors 500 Index (S&P 500) is the most common benchmark representing the stock market as a whole. While the majority of its component holdings are not as "blue chip" or well known as the components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), the S&P 500 is more diversified. This makes S&P 500 index funds a favorite among passive ETF investors (To learn more, see Index Investing.)
In Pictures: Why Companies Care About Stock Price

Companies included in the index are selected by the S&P Index Committee, a team of analysts and economists at Standard & Poor's. The S&P 500 is a market value weighted index, in which each stock's weight in the index is proportionate to its market value.

However, in terms of performance, it is rarely the biggest components of the index (like Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) or Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) that are the best performers. While these giants do not experience significant volatility, they do not tend to be the high-flyers.

Nonetheless, there are a number of S&P 500 members that have soared beyond the rest so far this year.

Company Market Cap (Billions) YTD % Gain
Cummins (NYSE:CMI) 18.5B +104.7%
Wynn Resorts (Nasdaq:WYNN) 12.6B +75.8%
Akamai Technologies (Nasdaq:AKAM) 8.0B +74.4%
Lexmark International (NYSE:LXK) 3.5B +70.5%
Zions Bancorporation (Nasdaq:ZION) 3.8B +70.2%
Family Dollar Stores (NYSE:FDO) 6.1B +67.8%

Bottom Line
The S&P 500 has only notched gains of about 55 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 60%, and are well worth an in-depth look.

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