The Biggest S&P Winners So Far in 2014

The S&P 500 is at new records, and these stocks have been a big part of those gains. Find out more about these winning stocks here.

Mar 2, 2014 at 11:30AM

After a tough January, the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) bounced back sharply in February to stand once more at an all-time high. But some stocks have played a bigger role in the S&P's record moves than others, and topping the performance list among the 500 stocks in the index were Forest Laboratories (NYSE:FRX), Nabors Industries (NYSE:NBR), Alexion Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ALXN), and Actavis (NYSE:AGN).

Merger and acquisition activity often play a big role in explosive up moves for stocks, but the surprising thing about one particular transaction in early 2014 is that both the acquirer and the target saw strong gains. Two weeks ago, generic-drug maker Actavis (ACT) announced that it would buy Forest Labs (FRX) for $25 billion, with the deal including just over $26 in cash plus about a third of a share of Actavis stock. Often with buyouts -- especially those involving shares as part of the compensation -- the stock of the acquirer will fall after such an announcement. But investors love the move from both companies' point of view, as Forest (FRX) got a huge premium to the price at which its shares were trading before the announcement, while Actavis said that the deal will be immediately accretive to earnings and help the company build sustainable growth by expanding its reach beyond generics to incorporate specialty pharmaceuticals as well. As a result, Forest Labs shares are up 62% year-to-date, while Actavis has seen gains of 31%.

For Nabors (NBR), strong earnings led to most of the land-based oil and gas drilling company's gains of 35%. For a long time, drilling activity on land has paled in comparison to offshore drilling, as low natural-gas prices have caused many exploration and production companies to pull back on their capital expenditures and go into cash-preservation mode. Yet Nabors has started to see the domestic drilling market improve, and even more importantly, it has seen its international business become more profitable, with record margins that were better even than the boom year of 2008. If gas prices stay on the rise, Nabors could continue to see solid gains.

Meanwhile, Alexion (ALXN) has risen 33%, with its fourth-quarter earnings report also providing most of the lift to the biopharma stock. With Alexion relying on Soliris, the only drug for which it has received FDA approval, news that sales rose 38% was well-received, and a 45% jump in net income was also greater than expected. Yet Alexion's biggest surge came from its guidance for the full 2014 year, as investors weigh the newest orphan-drug indication for Soliris in helping prevent delayed graft function in those who've received renal transplants. Even though diseases like atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome and paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria aren't household names, Alexion has done a good job of building revenue for the drug that treats them, and as long as Soliris keeps performing well, Alexion shareholders will share in its success.

Of course, anything could happen in the future to reverse the big gains that these four stocks have seen. But with the wind at their backs, these four companies have every ability to build on their gains and seek even greater opportunities for the future.

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4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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