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The 10 Best-Performing Stocks of 2020

By Taylor Carmichael - Jan 7, 2021 at 6:30AM

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Biotech, bitcoin, and renewable energy led the way.

The 10 best-performing stocks of 2020 are a motley group. The winners include four biotechs, three bitcoin miners, and three renewable energy stocks.

Most of these stocks were microcaps a year ago, and some of these companies have seen remarkable shifts in their business prospects. Others might simply be in the manic phase of one of Mr. Market's mood swings. Without further ado, here are the top 10 stocks of 2020, purely in terms of returns.   

Man using a red marker to circle "Top 10" on a window

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Bit Digital (up 3,691%)

Bit Digital ( BTBT -5.29% ) emerged out of nowhere to take the top spot in 2020. Known as Golden Bull at the start of the year, this car-rental company started mining bitcoin in February, 2020. The microcap changed its name to Bit Digital in September.

By November, the company had earned 1,220 bitcoins for its mining activities. At a recent price of $33,000 per bitcoin, that's a valuation of $40 million. And its market cap hit $957 million on December 31.

2. Novavax (up 2,889%)

In 2020, Novavax ( NVAX 7.42% ) emerged as one of the top players in the fight against COVID-19. In May, the tiny vaccine company received $388 million in funding from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI) to pay for manufacturing and distribution of the company's vaccine candidate around the world. Then, Operation Warp Speed (OWS) gave the company $1.6 billion to reserve 100 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine for future American use.

After the company had positive data from its phase 1 trial, the stock price hit a high of $181 a share, up from $4 at the beginning of the year. The stock has come down off its highs while investors wait for data from the company's phase 3 trial of its vaccine candidate in the U.K.

3. Blink Charging (up 2,332%)

After the election of Joe Biden, the stock market started bidding up renewable energy stocks in a big way. Blink Charging ( BLNK -4.27% ) jumped from a microcap at the beginning of 2020 to a $1.3 billion valuation. The company owns and operates 23,000 charging stations for electric vehicles.

Right now, Blink sports a triple-digit negative profit margin (285%), and revenue growth is minuscule at 18%. Nonetheless, this stock was one of the big winners of 2020, with its leap from a penny stock to $42 a share. 

4. Vaxart (up 1,606%)

In 2020, Vaxart ( VXRT 2.78% ) emerged as one of the super stocks of 2020. Like Novavax, the tiny biotech is pursuing a vaccine for COVID-19. The stock traded for pennies in January and hit $16 a share by July.

Sentiment has cooled somewhat, with the stock falling to $6 by December. Vaxart was shut out of OWS grant money, so its clinical-trial progress has lagged the leaders in the vaccine race. However, the tiny company has an ace up its sleeve -- its vaccine is in pill form.

5. Riot Blockchain (up 1,441%)

In 2017, when the price of bitcoin started going crazy, Riot Blockchain ( RIOT -0.61% ) morphed from a biotech to a bitcoin miner. Along with the price of bitcoin, the stock ran way up and then crashed hard in 2018.

Riot is still around, however, and still mining bitcoin. In 2020, the company's stock soared higher after the price of bitcoin hit $30,000 in December.           

6. Beam Global (up 1,358%)  

Beam Global ( BEEM -2.14% ) is another green-energy company, also focused on providing charging stations for drivers of electric vehicles (EV). Unlike Blink, Beam's business model is focused on providing its solar technology to city, state, and federal governments that want to provide the service to citizens.

Beam has 96 cities as customers. The company only had $4 million in revenue over the last 12 months.    

7. Cardiff Oncology (up 1,311%)

Cardiff Oncology ( CRDF -0.74% ) is a biotech company in the cancer space. It has only one drug in its pipeline, onvansertib, that's being tested in multiple indications. It's in phase 2 trials for prostate cancer and leukemia.

But most of the excitement is due to its phase 1 trial, where the drug is being tested for patients who have the KRAS-mutation. Mirati and Amgen are the big names in that sector. Cardiff is still a small-cap, but its stock has been soaring thanks to early positive data.

8. Trillium Therapeutics (up 1,202%)

Another cancer biotech, Trillium Therapeutics ( TRIL ), jumped from a microcap into a $1.4 billion company in 2020. The company is focused on shutting off the CD47 protein in cancer cells. This protein allows the cancer to hide from the human body's immune system. By shutting off CD47, Trillium's drugs allow your natural immune system to spot the cancer cells and kill them.

Back in March, Gilead Sciences spent $4.9 billion acquiring Forty-Seven, a company doing similar scientific research. Trillium's drugs are just in phase 1, but early data is very promising.

9. Marathon Patent Group (up 1,134%)

Marathon Patent Group ( MARA -0.84% ) is another bitcoin miner that zoomed higher along with the rise of bitcoin prices in the fourth quarter. Marathon used to own a variety of intellectual property assets. In 2017, when cryptocurrency first hit the mainstream, Marathon switched its business model and started mining bitcoin. Now trading at 88 times sales, the company's market cap surged to $700 million by the end of 2020.

10. NIO (up 1,103%)

Nio ( NIO -3.16% ) is a Chinese electric-vehicle (EV) manufacturer that's focused on the SUV (sport utility vehicle) market. With its $83 billion market cap, Nio is the only large cap to make this list. Right now Nio is seeing triple-digit revenue growth, up 146% in the most recent quarter. The company seeks to compete with Tesla for the worldwide lead in the EV market.

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.

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Stocks Mentioned

Bit Digital, Inc. Stock Quote
Bit Digital, Inc.
$9.31 (-5.29%) $0.52
Novavax, Inc. Stock Quote
Novavax, Inc.
$208.35 (7.42%) $14.39
Cardiff Oncology, Inc. Stock Quote
Cardiff Oncology, Inc.
$5.36 (-0.74%) $0.04
Marathon Patent Group, Inc. Stock Quote
Marathon Patent Group, Inc.
$50.96 (-0.84%) $0.43
Riot Blockchain, Inc. Stock Quote
Riot Blockchain, Inc.
$37.14 (-0.61%) $0.23
NIO Inc. Stock Quote
NIO Inc.
$39.18 (-3.16%) $-1.28
Trillium Therapeutics Inc. Stock Quote
Trillium Therapeutics Inc.
Vaxart, Inc. Stock Quote
Vaxart, Inc.
$7.76 (2.78%) $0.21
Blink Charging Co. Stock Quote
Blink Charging Co.
$36.76 (-4.27%) $-1.64
Envision Solar International, Inc. Stock Quote
Envision Solar International, Inc.
$26.06 (-2.14%) $0.57

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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