What a week for stocks! Markets rallied on Monday on hopes that closer ties among European Union countries could help the region deal with the sovereign- debt crisis that has parked dark storm clouds over the global economy. The excitement continued on Wednesday, as the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks around the world agreed to ease dollar funding costs to help improve liquidity for European banks.

Thanks to the big jumps on Monday and Wednesday, the S&P 500 tacked on 7.4% for the week while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) jumped 7%. As might be expected, it was the most economically sensitive sectors that were doing the most to drive the indexes higher.

Top 3 Performing Sectors

S&P Sector

Weekly Price Change

November Price Change

Energy 10.9% 1.7%
Materials 10% (0.1%)
Financials 9.1% (5%)

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Weekly price change is Nov. 25-Dec. 1. Monthly price change is Oct. 31-Nov. 30.

Not surprisingly, the week's top winner from the S&P 500 came from one of these sectors. While there wasn't much specifically happening for Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR) during the week, the euro-region excitement was enough to persuade investors to jam the buy button, driving the stock up nearly 28%. Better economic prospects could drive demand for energy and, therefore, demand for coal. Alpha was joined in hefty gains by fellow coal miner Peabody Energy and AK Steel (NYSE: AKS), which just recently acquired a metallurgical-coal company.

Joining the coal clique in the top performers was Genworth Financial (NYSE: GNW), which benefited from an analyst upgrade early in the week.

Top 3 Performing S&P 500 Companies


Weekly Price Change

Alpha Natural Resources 27.6%
United States Steel (NYSE: X) 22.6%
Genworth Financial 22.3%

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Weekly price change is Nov. 25-Dec. 1.

Also among the other top performers for the week was First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR). Along with fellow solar competitors LDK Solar and JA Solar (Nasdaq: JASO), First Solar's stock has been absolutely hammered this year as the near-term prospects for the solar industry have dimmed considerably. As one of the key markets for solar energy, though, progress toward stabilization in Europe could be good news for the entire solar industry.

That's it for this week's top-performers recap. You can stay up to date on any of these companies by clicking the "+" button next to the ticker and adding it to your watchlist. Don't have a watchlist yet? Don't fret -- you can set one up for free.

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.