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Four of the Top-Performing Stocks of the First Quarter of 2012


At least for the time being, it appears the optimists were in the right. Stocks have shot up over the last quarter, making for the best quarter so far this decade.

The end of 2011 was a rough one for the financial markets. It began in early August, when concerns over the inability of the American government to cut a deal on the debt ceiling sparked a massive sell-off. It continued through the fall as concerns about the safety of European sovereign debt roiled markets even further. The combination of concerns over political gridlock and troubled European countries helped hold down stock prices.

However, one man remained calm and tried to use the panic of others as a buying opportunity. Berkshire Hathaway's (BRK-A) Warren Buffett bought up over $15 billion in equities in the third quarter of 2011, seeing the downturn as more of a coiled spring, storing potential energy for an eventual breakout. Well, at least for the time being, it appears Buffett and other optimists were in the right. Stocks have shot up over the last quarter, making for the best quarter so far this decade.

Since the start of the year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained 8.57%, the S&P 500 is up 12.83%, and the Nasdaq gained just short of 20%. This massive gain has made those bulls out there who bought up stocks when prices were very low, including the Oracle of Omaha himself.

Biggest Gainers of the S&P 500

So, without further ado, here are some of those members of the S&P that have made the biggest gains over the course of the quarter.

1. Sears Holding Corp. (SHLD)
Market Cap: $7.10 billion
Gain: 109.85%
Sears has more than doubled its share price since the start of the year. The company announced in February that it would be spinning off Sears Hometown, Outlet Businesses, and some hardware stores.

2. Bank of America (BAC)
Market Cap: $104.27 billion
Gain: 74.1%
This one should have Warren Buffett smiling after the $5 billion he invested in the company last year. The gains, fueled by improvements in Europe and passing the most recent round of stress testing, are even more impressive if one goes back to December 20 of last year. Since then, Bank of America is up 94.1%.

3. Netflix (NFLX)
Market Cap: $6.32 billion
Gain: 64.48%
Well, look who it is. Of all the stories of plunging stocks from 2011, none took on the Shakespearean-tragedy levels of Netflix, with its 80% dive. However, Netflix appears to be on the mend. The company appears to be proving that the collapse of its shares in 2011 was an overreaction as it makes back ground in 2012.

4. Whirlpool Corp. (WHR)
Market Cap: $5.83 billion
Gain: 59.68%
Home appliance maker Whirlpool has been off and running since February 1, when the company issued 2012 EPS guidance that outpaced analysts' expectation.

This article was written by Joel Anderson.

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