BOSTON (TheStreet) -- The Nasdaq Composite Index, once known as a high-flier because of its technology-company constituents, recently has been moving in step with the benchmark S&P 500 Index.
As a result, the Nasdaq as a whole is largely unattractive to investors, who are taking on greater risk for similar returns.
But picking and choosing among industries in the Nasdaq can be lucrative. Computer hardware has risen 8% this year; semiconductor equipment and materials is up 14%; software, up 11.8%; and computer systems, up 8.9%.
In fact, the Nasdaq's 10 top performers this year, mainly technology, Internet and medical-device companies, are boasting returns of 21% to 44%. Their performances were boosted by the economy's steady recovery as well as product innovations that excite investors. The Nasdaq Composite Index, in contrast, has gained 4.7% this year, trailing the S&P 500's 5.6% increase. Plus, the Nasdaq's price-to-earnings ratio is a lofty 28.9, almost double that of the S&P 500.It was 10 years ago this month, on the 10th, that the Nasdaq hit its all-time high of 5,048 during the dot-com and technology-stock boom. But its subsequent tumble and continued volatility throughout the recession served to keep investors cautious on Nasdaq stocks. The Nasdaq exchange is still dealing with these issues, as two weeks ago the Securities and Exchange Commission approved the organization's request to set trading curbs for individual stocks, prompted by the $862 billion "flash crash" of the Nasdaq 100 Index on May 6, 2010. That measure is in addition to the market-wide circuit breakers put in place by the exchange a few years ago. Nevertheless, the Nasdaq has been moderately calm this year, considering the issues investors have had to face. They include the political upheaval in the Middle East, which drove oil prices over $100 a barrel and spiked inflation fears, as well as the earthquake and nuclear-plant disasters in Japan, which threatened supplies of key manufacturers and suppliers of some of the leading companies in the technology industry, which makes up the biggest component of the Nasdaq Composite Index. And some investors have lost a lot of money on Nasdaq stocks. The bottom 10 performers this year, with share-price declines ranging from 12% to 28%, include, in order of biggest loser to smallest: F5 Networks (FFIV), Akamai Technologies (AKAM), Urban Outfitters (URBN), PACCAR (PCAR), Cisco Systems (CSCO), Expedia (EXPE), Marvell Technology Group (MRVL), Staples (SPLS) and Activision Blizzard (ATVI). What follows is a summary of the 10 top-performing Nasdaq stocks this quarter, in inverse order of return:
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