The 3 Best-Performing Nasdaq-100 Stocks in the First Quarter

It was generally a great quarter for U.S. indexes all the way around, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 all rising to the occasion and eclipsing their all-time highs. The same can't quite be said for the tech-heavy Nasdaq-100, which rose just 5.9% during the quarter. Don't get me wrong -- this is still an impressive gain. However, the continued commoditization of technology products dragged down results for numerous technology bellwethers.

Despite underperforming both the Dow Jones and S&P 500, three companies shone to the upside during the quarter.

Micron Technology (NASDAQ: MU  ) +57.3%
Memory-chip maker Micron sneaked in as the fifth-best performer in the S&P 500, but it snagged the title as top dog within the Nasdaq-100 thanks to the beautiful combination of decreasing production costs and rising gross margins. Micron's second-quarter results highlighted this outperformance, as its revenue flew by Wall Street's estimates by $160 million despite a worse-than-expected loss of $0.28 per share. 

Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG  ) +47.7%
Biotechnology company Celgene delivered an exceptional quarter for investors, rising nearly 48% after outlining a plan in early January at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference that could have it doubling its revenue and tripling its profits organically by 2017. Celgene has multiple growth drivers in Revlimed for multiple myeloma and Abraxane, which continues to gain additional approvals in various cancer treatments. In addition, Celgene received FDA approval for its advanced multiple myeloma drug Pomalyst during the first quarter.

Dell (UNKNOWN: DELL.DL  ) +42.2%
PC-maker Dell's gains come courtesy of a buyout offer to go private from CEO Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners, which offered $13.65 per share for the company in February. After weeks of huffing and puffing from activist investors unhappy with the buyout price, Blackstone Group (NYSE: BX  ) and Icahn Enterprises one week ago offered competing bids that could take all, or parts, of the company private for a value ranging from at least $14.25 for Blackstone, to as high as $15 for Icahn Enterprises bid. As a shareholder in Dell, I encourage you to read my more detailed analysis of the three-way battle for this transformative company, and why the Blackstone offer is a superior bid. 

Which company has the best shot of outperforming in Q2?
I'm a current shareholder in Dell, but I'm also a realist who understands that the chance that any competing bids will send shares higher is pretty low. With its PC business in decline and its networking business showing double-digit gains, cash flow growth from here on out should remain a wash. That will make raising additional cash beyond the current offers difficult, which leads me to believe Dell will be fairly flat in the upcoming quarter.

Micron Technology, as well, isn't a company I'd expect much from in the upcoming quarter. Memory-chip makers are the type of company you buy when no one wants them and you sell when the Wall Street upgrades start rolling in. With gross margin expanding and costs falling, you're getting your first clues that the top for memory-chip makers could be right around the corner.

In actuality, it's Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD  ) -- which turned in the fourth-best performance within the Nasdaq-100, gaining 33.3% – that looks most primed to continue its moves higher.

Celgene has a number of catalysts, as I mentioned previously, including additional indications for Abraxane, the approval for Pomalyst, and a potential new drug application, or NDA, filing for Apremilast to treat psoriasis. The downside is that Apremilast, which many had figured would be its next blockbuster drug, showed a sizable drop-off in efficacy (33.1% vs. 41%) in comparison with its mid-stage trials. That may stymie some of its very near-term growth prospects. 

Gilead has passed all four late-stage trials for Sofosbuvir, its revolutionary oral hepatitis-C treatment, with flying colors. It's highly anticipated that Gilead will file an NDA for Sofosbuvir in the second quarter, which should excite investors, considering that it has the potential to reach close to $4 billion in peak sales, according to Barclays analyst Tony Butler. If you're going to closely monitor any Nasdaq-100 companies next quarter, make sure it's Gilead Sciences!

Can Celgene continue to soar?
Every in-the-know biotech investor has an eye on Celgene. Shares have skyrocketed this year as the company outlined a plan to almost triple its profits in only a few years. But should you buy the story Celgene is selling? Make sure you understand the key opportunities and risks facing this company by picking up The Motley Fool's brand-new premium report on Celgene. To claim your copy today, simply click here now.


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