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10 stocks burning past the competition

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It's tempting to think when stocks are in rally mode, it's a win-win for everyone. But there are some clear runaway winners.

Each of the 10 sectors in the Standard & Poor's 500 are seeing winning stocks burn past the competition, or at least, the other members of their sector. Some of these breakaway winners including single-cup brewer Keurig Green Mountain (GMCR) in the consumer staples industry, Newfield Exploration (NFX) in the energy sector and Southwest Airlines (LUV) in the industrial sector, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from S&P Capital IQ.

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When it comes to pulling ahead of the crowd, Keurig is the pace leader. The stock is up a blistering 77.3% this year, absolutely blowing away the 9% average gain of stocks in the consumer staples industry.

When a company grows as fast as Keurig has, you can often expect this kind of stock-price action. Keurig reported second-quarter earnings of 99 cents a share, up 21% from the same period a year ago and easily topping expectations.

But just because a company has pulled ahead, it doesn't mean it will continue to. Analysts are starting to cool off a bit on Keurig, setting an average 18-month price target of $125. That price target is actually nearly 7% below the current stock price.

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And analysts are starting to see earnings growth cooling at this company. Earnings per share are expected to be 13% lower in the third quarter and just 2.1% higher in the fourth. That's not the kind of growth that makes a leader remain a leader for long.

Another company soaring past its rivals is Southwest Airlines. Shares of the stock are up 72.9% this year, sailing by the 5.8% average gain of stocks in the industrials industry. Airlines are hot this year and Southwest is certainly part of that momentum. Better economics for the industry, including occupancy and fares, help explain why analysts see Southwest's earnings rising 58% this year.

But also at work in Southwest's relative standout performance is the fact that industrial stocks aren't exactly rocketing. Poor performances from industrial stocks like construction engineering firm Jacobs Engineering (JEC), Pentair (PNR) and Precision Castparts (PCP) drag down the sector, making it easier for winners like Southwest to stand out. Jacobs, Pentair and Precision Castparts are down 15.4%, 13% and 10.5% this year, respectively.

It's difficult to know if these runaway winners can keep burning by the competition — and with Keurig, analysts have their doubts. But for now, investors are loving the ride.

The top performing stocks in each of the industry sectors in the S&P 500:

—By Matt Krantz, USA Today

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