The year 2013 was a great one for stocks, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) returning 30% and the S&P 500 up 32%. But 2014 has had a slow start, and the indexes are down 1% and flat, respectively.

The trend this year is toward safer names, and that's why industrial giant Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) and medical giants Merck (NYSE:MRK) and United Health Group (NYSE:UNH) are actually the Dow's top stocks.

In the video below, Fool contributor contributor Travis Hoium covers why these stocks are outperforming this year and what to expect for the rest of 2014. 

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Travis Hoium has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends UnitedHealth Group. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.