Investors that held any of the best performing stocks in the S&P 500 during the third quarter of 2011 were probably glad that they ignored the "sell in May and go away" trader's wisdom that appears in the financial media every spring.

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The Winners
The two best performing stocks made the list the old fashioned way after receiving takeover offers during the quarter. Motorola Mobility Holdings (NYSE:MMI) rose 72% on the strength of a $40 per share takeover offer from Google (Nasdaq:GOOG). This 63% takeover premium was one of the largest in recent memory. (For related reading, see Biggest Merger And Acquisition Disasters.)

Goodrich Corp (NYSE:GR) was also the recipient of a generous buyout offer during the quarter, powering a 29% increase for the stock. United Technologies (NYSE:UTX) offered $127.50 per share for the company, a 47% premium to the company's stock price.

Apple (Nasdaq:AAPL) rose 17% in the third quarter and seems to roll along no matter what investors think about the economy. The company faced some headwinds during the quarter, including the departure of Steve Jobs, the CEO of the company, who retired in August 2011.

Gold producer Newmont Mining Corp (NYSE:NEM) moved 17% higher in the quarter, and was one of the few stocks in the basic materials sector of the S&P 500 to have a positive return during the quarter.

Newmont Mining Corp's performance was even more noteworthy considering the price volatility that gold experienced during the quarter as investors couldn't seem to decide whether this precious metal was a worthy investment.

VF Corp (NYSE:VFC) also finished the quarter up by almost 17% as this apparel maker seems to be taking actions that pleased the market. The company is also getting bigger through acquisitions and recently closed on the purchase of Timberland Company for $2.3 billion.

VF Corp is also notable for being a member of the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats Index. Companies included in this index must have raised dividends consistently for 25 years.

The company reports earning in late October 2011, and investors should expect some extra price volatility as some market participants may take profits in the stock due to fears of an economic slowdown. (Dividends may not seem exciting, but they can be certainly lucrative. For more, see The Power Of Dividend Growth.)

The Bottom Line
Investors that owned the best performing stocks in the S&P 500 in the third quarter of 2011 were either skillful stock pickers or downright lucky. In either case, a conservative strategy might be to reduce positions before the stock market blow up spreads to these names as well.

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Tickers in this Article: MMI, GR, AAPL, NEM, VFC, GOOG, UTX

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