stocks

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.

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), 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.

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, +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, -56.9% in 2020) and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH, -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, -50.9% in 2020), as airlines were effectively crippled too. Energy firms such as Occidental Petroleum (OXY, -56.6% in 2020) and Marathon Oil (MRO, -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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