The Best and Worst S&P 500 Stocks From 2020

The S&P 500 made the most of a calamitous year, gaining 16% in 2020 after recovering from a quick bear market. Here's how every component performed.

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

2020 is a year many of us won't want to remember. But it ultimately wasn't so bad for stocks – the S&P 500 more than recovered from its March depths, setting numerous record highs in the latter part of the year and finishing 2020 up 16.3%.

Some S&P 500 stocks did much better than others, however.

Tesla (TSLA (opens in new tab)), which didn't even join the index until late in 2020, was by far and away the index's best performer with a 743.4% gain. The company obliterated expectations for deliveries throughout the year, putting Tesla's original year-end goal of 500,000 deliveries within realistic reach.

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Perhaps more importantly, in July, TSLA reported its fourth consecutive quarter of turning a profit. That helped flame speculation that the company would join the ranks of the S&P 500 stocks. Also sparking retail investor interest was the company's August announcement that it would split its stock 5-for-1.

Had it not been for Tesla's inclusion, Etsy (ETSY (opens in new tab), +301.6% in 2020) would've been the S&P 500's top stock. The online retailer, which focuses on handmade and other artisan goods, was one of the biggest beneficiaries of a huge shift to e-commerce, with the company's revenues doubling through the first nine months of 2020.

Many of the S&P 500's worst stocks were unsurprisingly related to travel and energy, both of which were gashed in 2020.

Carnival (CCL (opens in new tab), -56.9% in 2020) and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH (opens in new tab), -56.5% in 2020), which were unable to operate for most of the year, were among the index's worst stocks. So was United Airlines (UAL (opens in new tab), -50.9% in 2020), as airlines were effectively crippled too. Energy firms such as Occidental Petroleum (OXY (opens in new tab), -56.6% in 2020) and Marathon Oil (MRO (opens in new tab), -50.4% in 2020) were also bottom-10 components, brutalized by oil prices that at one point turned negative for the year.

You can check out the list below for a full ranking of the S&P 500's stocks based on their total return (price plus dividends). Data and tables courtesy of S&P Global Market Intelligence.

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(Image credit: S&P Global Market Intelligence)
Kyle Woodley

Kyle Woodley is the Editor-in-Chief of Young and The Invested (opens in new tab), a site dedicated to improving the personal finances and financial literacy of parents and children. He also writes the weekly The Weekend Tea (opens in new tab) newsletter, which covers both news and analysis about spending, saving, investing, the economy and more.

Kyle was previously the Senior Investing Editor for, and the Managing Editor for before that. His work has appeared in several outlets, including Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money, Barchart, The Globe & Mail and the Nasdaq. He also has appeared as a guest on Fox Business Network and Money Radio, among other shows and podcasts, and he has been quoted in several outlets, including MarketWatch, Vice and Univision. He is a proud graduate of The Ohio State University, where he earned a BA in journalism. 

You can check out his thoughts on the markets (and more) at @KyleWoodley (opens in new tab).