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5 Construction Stocks Leading Sector Rally

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Construction and engineering, typically a boom-and-bust industry, has attracted big investor money this year as worldwide demand for new infrastructure and energy projects propel earnings.

Shares of companies in the construction and engineering (C&E) sector, such as Fluor (FLR - Get Report) and Jacobs Engineering (JEC - Get Report), have jumped an average of 13% this year versus 5.4% for the S&P 500 Index. That's the fifth-best-performing industry among more than 100 tracked by Standard & Poor's. C&E, a sub-industry of the industrials sector, is up 50% over the past 12 months.

Those returns are indicative of the big flow of funds going into developed-equities markets in the U.S., Japan and Europe, and out of emerging markets over the past few weeks. Fund-flows tracking firm EPFR Global recently said $47 billion flowed into developed markets, and the second week of February had the biggest inflows into those markets in over 30 months.

C&E includes multinational civil-engineering companies and large-scale contractors, but excludes homebuilders. These firms are seen benefiting from new power generation projects or improvements to existing ones, including coal-fired plants, oil & gas, and nuclear power plants as those firms have increased their capital spending budgets in the face of rising oil prices.

Another driver should be government work. President Obama has a $50 billion infrastructure plan to rebuild roads, railways and airport runways, and separately, last year Congress approved $45 billion of highway construction funds, a 10% increase from 2010.

Additionally, Congress is considering a new $450 billion transportation bill.

Here are five of the industry's biggest companies that should benefit from these growth trends:

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