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10 best, 10 worst S&P 500 stocks so far in 2015

Defensive sectors are leading the market, with energy and financials lagging

Bloomberg News/Landov

Shares of Netflix have jumped 30% this year.

After yet another year of gains for the S&P 500 Index, it’s been a drab January for investors.

The U.S. benchmark is down 1.7% through Thursday (assuming dividends were reinvested), as 301 component stocks have declined.

Amid risk-off mode, the strongest sectors have been Utilities, up 4.7%, followed by Health Care, up 2.7%, and Consumer Staples, up 0.62%. All seven of the other broad sectors have fallen, led by Energy, which is down 5.6%, closely followed by Financials, down 5.5%.

In December, the S&P 500 Index SPX, -1.30% was flat, as was the Energy sector, since the heavily weighted Integrated Oil and Gas subsector rose 2.7%, offsetting a 13.6% decline for the Coal and Consumable Fuels subsector and a 5.9% drop for the Oil and Gas Drilling subsector. December’s strongest sector was Utilities, which rose 3.2%.

MarketWatch writer Mark D. Cook said Wednesday that we’re already in a bear market, but not every analyst agrees with that. If you think we’re settled in for a down market for some time, you might want to consider low-volatility stocks, many of which have attractive dividend yields.

Here are the 10 best-performing S&P 500 stocks this year (through Thursday’s close):

CompanyTickerIndustryTotal return - YTDTotal return - DecemberTotal return - 2014Price/ consensus 2016 EPS estimate
Netflix Inc.NFLX,-0.45%Movies/ Entertainment30%-1%-7%80.2
Newmont Mining Corp.NEM,+4.05%Precious Metals28%3%-17%18.8
Electronic Arts Inc.EA,-0.85%Recreational Products18%7%105%18.7
Harman International Industries Inc.HAR,+3.70%Electronics Appliances17%-2%32%17.8
MeadWestvaco Corp.MWV,-0.83%Containers/ Packaging14%-1%27%20.7
Constellation Brands Inc,. Class ASTZ,-1.19%Beverages: Alcoholic14%2%39%20.5
Boeing Corp.BA,-1.63%Aerospace and Defense14%-3%-3%15.9
Ventas Inc.VTR,-1.41%Real Estate Investment Trusts13%1%31%38.8
Endo International PLCENDP,-2.49%Pharmaceuticals13%-1%7%15.5
PG&E Corp.PCG,-2.23%Electric Utilities13%6%37%16.5
Total returns assume dividends are reinvested. Source: FactSet
Six of January’s winners also saw double-digit gains during 2014. For the most part, this group can be described as “high flyers,” with forward price-to-earnings ratios much higher than the S&P 500’s 14.8.Shares of Netflix Inc. NFLX, -0.45% popped 17% on Jan. 21 alone, after the company’s fourth-quarter subscriber growth came in well ahead of Wall Street’s expectations. Trey Williams discussed the company’s international expansion plans.

Newmont Mining Co. NEM, +4.05% has risen 28% this year, showing how shares of gold miners can be hyper-sensitive to rising commodity prices. Gold for February delivery GCG5, -0.34% on the Comex was up 6% through Thursday’s close.

Here are the 10 worst-performing S&P 500 stocks this year:

CompanyTickerIndustryTotal return - YTDTotal return - DecemberTotal return - 2014Price/ consensus 2016 EPS estimate
Freeport-McMoRan Inc.FCX,-0.12%Precious Metals-27%-13%-36%5.9
FMC Technologies Inc.FTI,+2.74%Oilfield Services/ Equipment-22%-2%-10%12.4
SanDisk Corp.SNDK,-2.01%Electronic Components-21%-5%41%12.5
Denbury Resources Inc.DNR,+5.83%Oil and Gas Production-20%-2%-50%32.2
Allegheny Technologies Inc.ATI,+1.71%Steel-19%4%0%10.9
National Oilwell Varco Inc.NOV,+2.20%Oilfield Services/ Equipment-19%-2%-7%11.0
Genworth Financial Inc. Class AGNW,+0.58%Life/ Health Insurance-18%-6%-45%4.9
Nabors Industries Inc.NBR,+8.48%Contract Drilling-18%-1%-23%18.1
Tiffany & Co.TIF,-2.77%Specialty Stores-17%-1%17%17.6
Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc.DO,+2.60%Contract Drilling-16%25%-30%18.7
Total returns assume dividends are reinvested. Source: FactSet

Seven of this year’s biggest losers also had lousy returns during 2014, when the S&P 500 climbed 13.7%. Freeport-McMoRan Inc. has suffered this year, as the price of copper HGH5, +0.02% has tumbled 13%.