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10 Best-Performing S&P 500 Stocks of 2011

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Ten companies on the benchmark S&P 500 Index have gained as much as 61% this year as the third quarter played host to a tumultuous 2011 for the stock market.

Half of the companies are in the health-care industry, and two are in the aerospace and defense industry.

Companies in the S&P 500 have been battered and bruised because of the still-evolving sovereign debt crisis in Europe and the growing threat of a double-dip recession in the U.S. The dysfunction of the U.S. political system hasn't exactly helped.

The index, which tracks the performance of the 500 largest U.S. stocks and is used as a benchmark for the overall health of the U.S. equities market, is down 6.5% so far this year, with most of the decline occurring in the past two months. So the performance of these 10 companies and their shares is noteworthy because it indicates they may outperform as there's little evidence of a big improvement in global economies.

The following is a snapshot of the 10 top-performing stocks in the S&P 500 this year, ranked by total return. Share prices are as of Sept. 26 and returns as of Sept. 23.

10. Watson Pharmaceutical (WPI)

Company Profile: Watson is the world's fourth-largest generic pharmaceutical manufacturer and it also operates a branded pharmaceutical division.

2011 Total Return: 37%

Current Share Price: $70.88

S&P analysts have an $80 price target on its shares. It has a market value of $9.5 billion.

The company is expected to get a big boost in November when Pfizer's (PFE - Get Report) long-time best-seller Lipitor goes off patent and Watson can begin producing a generic version of it.

S&P projects Watson's revenue will grow 25% in 2011 to $4.5 billion.

Analysts' consensus earnings estimate for this year is $4.45 and that is expected to grow by 28% to $5.70 in fiscal 2012.

Analysts give its shares seven "strong buy" ratings, three "moderate buys," and 10 "holds," according to TheStreet Ratings.

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