By Sam Mattera
The market has performed tremendously since the start of the year. Year-to-date during Friday's trading session the S&P 500 was up nearly 10%. For its part, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has rallied about 1000 points since the start of the year.

While there are certain to be lesser-known stocks that have put up astronomical performances since the turn of the year, many bigger name companies have seen amazing returns as well. Here are a few:

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is up over 47% year-to-date. Shares pulled back slightly Friday, and at current levels are trading around $598. The company released its new iPad model last Friday and long lines at stores were reported across the country. If Apple continues on its current trajectory, the stock could effectively double from its recent November lows by June.

Although the company has a relatively low P/E ratio and a humongous amount of cash on its balance sheet, many commentators have begun to question whether Apple could be in for a large pull-back.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is up over 24% year-to-date. The company has not released any major new products in the past three months, but is set to release the new iteration of its Windows operating system later this year. The new OS, known as Windows 8, will run across mobile platforms as well as standard desktop and laptop PCs.

Given the rise of the tablet, Windows 8 could propel the company higher. Still, Microsoft is entering the market late to the game, and the company may be unable to compete with Apple who continues to dominate in the sector.

Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) is up over 79% year-to-date. Late in December, the company's share price slipped below $5--a relatively important psychological level--as the Eurozone crisis appeared to look particularly grim. Yet, the last few months have seen a tremendous shift in sentiment on the company, and shares are now approaching double digits.

Earlier last week, it was announced that the bank had passed the Fed's stress test, but did not ask to pay a dividend.

Jefferies (NYSE: JEF) is up around 40% year-to-date. Late last year, Jefferies was trading near $10, and had one session where the stock dropped roughly 20%. The selling in the name may have been driven primarily by market fear, as there were reports that Jefferies could be tied to MF Global in some way, or that it had large exposure to troubled Eurozone sovereigns.

JP Morgan (NYSE: JPM) is up almost 36% year-to-date. The company had a powerful session earlier last week when the stock rallied about 7% in one session. Although Bank of America has seen better performance, many market commentators seem to think of JP Morgan as the best positioned of the major banks.

Vivus (NASDAQ: VVUS) is up over 117% year-to-date. While such performance is impressive, it is not particularly noteworthy for a small pharmaceutical company that frequently sees large swings to the upside or the downside. Still, Vivus generated quite a bit of buzz both for its rapid gain (the stock doubled in nearly one day) and the fact that its drug fights obesity.

Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT) is up over 25% year-to-date. The company reported impressive earnings earlier in the year and released aggressive guidance. The company's management stated that the global economy was continuing to grow, and that the outlook for Caterpillar's machinery remained strong.

Neither Benzinga nor its staff recommend that you buy, sell, or hold any security. We do not offer investment advice, personalized or otherwise. Benzinga recommends that you conduct your own due diligence and consult a certified financial professional for personalized advice about your financial situation.

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Tickers in this Article: AAPL, MSFT, BAC, JEF, JPM, VVUS, CAT

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