Standout Stocks in the First Half

Now that the year is halfway through, I went hunting through the S&P 500 index, looking for stocks that somehow did well despite headwinds for their sectors and industries.

The clearest standout may be Hudson City Bancorp (HCBK), the only bank in the S&P 500 with a successful first half of the year. It’s up 11.1% so far this year.

In consumer staples, aside from a few acquisition candidates — i.e., Wrigley (WWY) and Anheuser-Busch (BUD) — the best performer was, as expected, Wal-Mart (WMT), with a 18.2% gain. I was surpised however with Kroger (KR), up 8.09%, the second best performer in the sector. Estee Lauder (EL) found a way to rise 6.51%. I didn’t know make-up was a staple.

The industrial sector includes airlines, and in this industry the undisputed standout is Southwest Airlines (LUV), which somehow managed to post a 6.9% gain despite record oil prices.

In energy, all but just a few stocks gained. So I looked for the standout losers: The refiners lost ground, of course, but also Exxon Mobil (XOM) posted a 5.93% decline.

The consumer discretionary sector has done poorly in 2008, but it had a surprising number of standouts: Retailer Big Lots (BIG) was up 95.4%; toy company Hasbro (HAS) rose 39.6%; Darden Restaurants (DRI), the owner of Red Lobster and Olive Garden, gained 15.3%; H&R Block (HRB) was up 15.2%; Wendy’s International (WEN); the TJX Companies (TJX), the owner of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, is up 9.54%.

Apparently, a great brand name — especially a reputation for providing consumers with good values — can keep a company’s stock afloat even in tough times.

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