The S & P 500 finished September lower, but eked out a 0.2% gain for the third quarter helped by smaller names that benefited from the transitionary period toward the reopening of the economy. The quarter was marked by several trends, including supply chain disruptions, discord in Washington, and the Federal Reserve's signal that it would soon begin its reduction in asset purchases. Stocks' gains for the year were offset by the September slump. CNBC ranked the top performers in the index for the quarter using data from FactSet. The top 20 are dominated by lesser-known names in health care, technology and financials. Energy, the only sector to finish higher in September, made a small appearance. Here are the biggest third-quarter winners in the S & P 500: Moderna generated the highest return in the S & P for the third quarter, about 60%, as Covid-19 vaccines continued being rolled out to more people and talk of a Covid booster shot evolved. The vaccine maker's stock popped after it announced it would test a combined Covid and flu vaccine. Moderna is higher by a whopping 268% for the year. By contrast, Paycom is only up about 8% for the year. Still, the payroll services company generated the second-largest returns for the quarter, about 36%, as people began reentering the workforce. Government stimulus targeted at mid-market and small businesses helped the firm as well, according to Oppenheimer's Brian Schwartz. Paycom also unveiled a self-service payroll product this quarter that investors are excited about because of its potential to go beyond payroll and other employment services markets, Schwartz said. Monolithic Power Systems , a high-performance analog semiconductor company, was up 29% for the quarter and about 32% for the year. Quanta Services , a contracting services company, gained about 25% for the quarter. Stifel recently said the stock saw an impact from both lower oil prices and Covid-related shelter in place orders and that it anticipates some recovery in the market in the second half of the year. Oil prices dipped in the middle of the quarter but have been rallying since. While many of the top performers for the third quarter had a down month in September or eked out small gains, Quanta is up more than 11% for the month.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), September 21, 2021.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
The S&P 500 finished September lower, but eked out a 0.2% gain for the third quarter helped by smaller names that benefited from the transitionary period toward the reopening of the economy.