The Santa Claus rally was in full force on Monday, as investors came back from the long weekend in the holiday spirit. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI), S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC), and Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) all finished at new all-time highs on excitement about the passage of the latest stimulus package in Washington.


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Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

Among the stock market's biggest winners on Monday were a couple of stocks that were hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ulta Beauty (NASDAQ:ULTA) had to close many of its stores earlier this year but is looking forward to what it hopes will be a massive new push in 2021. Meanwhile, Nikola (NASDAQ:NKLA) has gone through all sorts of drama in 2020, and positive calls from stock analysts suggesting that the worst might be over for the electric-truck company are sending its stock higher on Monday.

Number cubes turning from 2020 to 2021.

Image source: Getty Images.

Ulta looks for pent-up demand

Shares of Ulta Beauty were higher by 5%. The rise brought the stock to within 10% of its all-time highs from February before the pandemic hit.

Ulta got crushed during the onset of the coronavirus crisis, as investors watched with fear as the company had to close its salons to meet lockdown requirements. Even as the economy reopened, Ulta has faced an uphill struggle, as many of the drivers of demand for beauty products remain subdued during the pandemic.

Now, though, Ulta is looking forward to a new 2021. Industry experts believe that even though people working from home and not going out on the town for nightlife haven't needed as much makeup or salon services as they would ordinarily, consumers are going to be anxious to return to normal as soon as they can. That'll mean doing simple things for themselves, and the backlog of customers looking to visit actual Ulta stores could help reverse some of the damage that the company has seen on its income statement in 2020.

Ulta has done smart strategic moves that will help it, as well, such as opening new mini-stores within Target locations. That could help accelerate its recovery and get things moving even faster in 2021.

Can Nikola put its past behind it?

Nikola shares soared almost 20% on Monday. After a disastrous year for the electric-truck company, investors hope that it can reach its full potential despite the challenges it faces.

Nikola has had just about every possible bad thing happen to it. Its founder stepped away from the company amid controversy. Nikola's planned partnership with General Motors got scaled back considerably, and a collaboration with Republic Services to build electric waste trucks fell through.

But JPMorgan analysts believe that Nikola has hit bottom, and now, investors can focus on the fundamental prospects for the underlying business. Nikola will have the opportunity to execute on its corporate strategy in an effort to make progress toward a viable heavy commercial electric truck. If that happens, then Nikola should start to get its footing back.

Turnaround stories can be tough for investors, especially when other high-flying stocks have a lot of momentum. However, many believe that Ulta and Nikola could keep climbing, and today's gains might well be just the beginning of a new trend.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.