Taking a closer look at the breakdown of returns of S&P 500 Index constituents reveals 44% (220 of 500) were up for 2015 while 56% were flat or down. The top 2 performing stocks not only returned over 100%; they took market share and negatively impacted competitors in their industry.
1. Netflix +134%
Topping the leader board is Netflix (NFLX) with a +134% return. Netflix was successful in growing domestic subscribers, but the real story propelling the stock higher was strong international subscriber growth. Netflix had success with original programing both domestically and internationally. Netflix's ability to get cable subscribers to cut the cord adversely impacted the cable TV providers. The media industry posted a -7% lost overall. Cablevision Systems (CVC) was bought out posting the 5th highest return in the S&P. Disney (DIS) was up +11.6%, but even Disney started to weaken up in 4Q on subscriber loses. Time Warner Cable (TWC) was up +22.1% on a take over bid from Comcast, but Time Warner (TWX) was down -24.3%. Twenty-First Century Fox (FOX) was down -26.2% and (FOXA) was down -29.3%.
2. Amazon +118%
Amazon ranked second in the S&P 500 with a return of +118%. Amazon's impact was not on other internet retailers, but on the brick and mortar retailers. No one escaped the Amazon effect except the dollar stores which faired okay. Dollar General managed to gain +1.7%, and Dollar Tree (DLTR) was up +9.7%. The multiline retail industry was down -12.7% as a whole. Target (TGT) was not so bad, down -4.4%. Not the department stores were hit hard; Macy's (M) was down -46.8%, and Nordstrom (JWN) was down -32.8%. Even the discount stores were weak; Kohl's down -22%.
3. Activision Blizzard +92%
Activision Blizzard (ATVI) posted a +92% return. Activision Blizzard is the maker of the popular games Call of Duty and Black Ops. Activision purchased King Digital to get into the mobile gaming area.
4. Nvidia +64%
Nvidia (NVDA) is another play on gaming, but from hardware side of the business. Gaming is greater than 50% of Nvidia's revenue. Gaming revenue is growing 42% year-over-year. Nvidia's second key market is enterprise graphics. The third key market is data center, acceleration and high performance computing.
5. Cablevision Systems +55%
Cablevision was bought out by Altice for a 22% premium.