50 Best-Performing Companies In The Stock Market: 2015 In Review

Overall, 2015 was an uneventful year for stocks. After returning close to 10 percent in 2014, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) has lost 1.7 percent this year. The NASDAQ Composite Index (NASDAQ: ^IXIC) has gained 5.5 percent in 2015, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (^GSPC) has lost 0.8 percent.

Underneath the surface, a number of well-run companies with strong earnings and sales growth have managed to deliver impressive gains in an otherwise unimpressive 2015 stock market.

In an attempt to weed-out inferior quality names, this list of shares that have increased in value the most was restricted to those listed on the New York Stock Exchange or the NASDAQ with market capitalizations above $10 billion and that have increased in value by more than 25 percent in 2015, up to and including December 15.

The CNBC stock screener was used to compile this list.

Best-Performing NASDAQ Stocks Of 2015

Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) +143.0 percent.

Ctrip.com International Ltd. (NASDAQ: CTRP) +112.5 percent

Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) +112.2 percent

Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ: ATVI) +92.1 percent

NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ: NVDA) +64.4 percent

Incyte Corporation (NASDAQ: INCY) +57.0 percent

Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA) +53.8 percent

Expedia Inc. (NASDAQ: EXPE) +52.6 percent

Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ: SBUX) +46.2 percent

ULTA Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrance, Inc. (NASDAQ: ULTA) +45.0 percent

Hologic Inc. (NASDAQ: HOLX) +44.0 percent

Altera Corp. (NASDAQ: ALTR) +43.5 percent

Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG, GOOGL) +41.6 percent, +43.2 percent

Monster Beverage Corporation (NASDAQ: MNST) +40.8 percent

JD.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: JD) +36.5 percent

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: REGN) +35.6 percent

Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) +34.0 percent

Fiserv, Inc. (NASDAQ: FISV) +32.5 percent

Broadcom Corp. (NASDAQ: BRCM) +31.5 percent

O’Reilly Automotive Inc. (NASDAQ: ORLY) +30.2 percent

Equinix, Inc. (NASDAQ: EQIX) +27.9 percent

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NASDAQ: NCLH) +25.1 percent

Best-Performing NYSE Stocks Of 2015

Acuity Brands, Inc. (NYSE: AYI) +66.6 percent

Palo Alto Networks, Inc. (NYSE: PANW) +51.6 percent

Hormel Foods Corporation (HYSE: HRL) +49.7 percent

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NYSE: NTT) +49.3 percent

Extra Space Storage Inc. (NYSE: EXR) +48.3 percent

Vulcan Materials Company (NYSE: VMC) +45.4 percent

Constellation Brands Inc. (NYSE: STZ) +41.9 percent

T-Mobile US, Inc. (NYSE: TMUS) +41.7 percent

Boston Scientific Corporation (NYSE: BSX) +40.8 percent

Reynolds American Inc. (NYSE: RAI) +40.2 percent

Valero Energy Corporation (VLO) +38.0 percent

Alaska Air Group, Inc. (NYSE: ALK) +37.4 percent

Tesoro Corporation (NYSE: TSO) +37.1 percent

Cigna Corp. (NYSE: CI) +36.7 percent

Equifax Inc. (NYSE: EFX) +35.1 percent

Public Storage (NYSE: PSA) +35.1 percent

Tyson Foods, Inc. (NYSE: TSN) +34.6 percent

The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) +31.8 percent

Juniper Networks, Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) +30.7 percent

Salesforce.com, Inc. (CNYSE: CRM) +30.5 percent

Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc. (NYSE: DPS) +30.2 percent

Markel Corp. (NYSE: MKL) +30.0 percent

Cameron International Corporation (NYSE: CAM) +29.3 percent

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) +27.4 percent

The Chubb Corporation (NYSE: CB) +27.2 percent

ServiceNow, Inc. (NYSE: NOW) +26.2 percent

Molson Coors Brewing Company (NYSE: TAP) +25.8 percent

The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE: HD) +25.1 percent

One thing that each of these companies has that has caused investors to bid up share prices is growth, as well as expectations of more growth in the future.

Wall Street analysts are expecting Facebook, whose shares are up 34 percent this year, to report earnings per share for the fourth quarter of $0.67, up 24.1 percent from from 2014 levels. Ninety days ago, the analyst consensus for the fourth quarter was for EPS of $0.63; views have been raised by $0.04, which is always preferable to views decreasing or staying the same.

Often, companies that have shares that have outperformed the broad market will be experiencing year-over-year EPS growth above 20 percent. Upward revisions to analyst EPS estimates are common among companies with strong performing shares as well.

Also, effective use of debt by management often goes hand-in-hand with strong share performance. Facebook carries $126.0 million in debt and has a debt to equity ratio of 0.3 percent, or almost zero.

Amazon, on the other hand, carries $18.6 billion in debt and has a debt to equity ratio of 149.5 percent. However, for the fourth quarter of 2015, Amazon’s EPS is expected to grow 266.7 percent from 2014 levels. More than 10 times that of Facebook’s EPS.

Why then are Amazon shares up 112 percent in 2015, while Facebook shares are up only 34 percent? The market has put a premium on Facebook’s plain growth compared with Amazon’s levered growth, even though Amazon shares are up more than three times as much.

Very few companies have management teams that can effectively translate debt into earnings growth the way Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his team at Amazon can. However, at some point, debt needs to be paid back; earnings can only grow so high, and shares can only climb for so long. For the time being, though, Facebook and Amazon look set to continue their leadership of the stock market in the United States.

Last Friday, Investor’s Business Daily changed its market outlook from “uptrend under pressure” to “market in correction” suggesting that weakness may be ahead for stock market investors, as reported by The Inquisitr.

[Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]