BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- The S&P 500 Index has risen 13% in 2010 and is ending the year with a bang, as this month's gain is the best performance in almost two decades.Every year has its big gainers, and this year's is a diverse group, ranging from the mundane -- two regional banks -- to the glamorous -- an international resort and casino owner. And there is the usual representation of technology firms. Two of them are S&P 500 newcomers, F5 Networks ( FFIV) and Netflix ( NFLX), which were added in mid-December. Here is a look at the 10 best-performing S&P 500 stocks of 2010 and their prospects for next year. They are in inverse order based on their return. 10. Limited Brands ( LTD) is a specialty retailer of women's intimate apparel as well as beauty and personal-care products. The company owns Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, selling their merchandise through retail outlets, catalogs and Web sites. Revenue rose 13% in the third quarter, compared to last year, beating analysts' 10% projection. Third-quarter net income more than quadrupled to $61 million. Due to its strong cash flow and hefty cash balance, the company paid a $4 in special dividends this year. It also authorized a new $200 million stock-repurchase program. The company this week said it enjoyed a particularly strong holiday season, reporting a same-store sales increase of 10%. Analysts had projected 4%. Outlook: Limited's stock has risen 86% in 2010, including 22% in the past three months. Analysts laud the company's effort to return value to investors via buybacks and dividends, but there is concern that the strength of its flagship Victoria's Secret brand could be eroded as discount retailers such as Target ( TGT) roll out their own line of undergarments. Analysts' ratings are mixed, as nine rate Limited shares "buy," one "outperform," nine "hold" and one "sell." Janus Capital Management owns 8.9% of its shares, about double that of the next largest investor.
8. Zions Bancorp ( ZION) is a financial holding company operating eight different banks. Through its 500 branches, it provides banking services for small and medium-sized businesses and individuals. Most of its $55 billion assets are in the economically hard-hit states of Utah, California, Texas, Arizona and Nevada. Zions has about 50% of its $40 billion loan book in commercial lending operations, 30% in commercial real estate, and 20% in consumer loans. It lost $80 million, or 47 cents a share in the third quarter, but that's an improvement from the $135 million loss in the second quarter. Outlook: Regional-bank stocks have been boosted in recent weeks by merger speculation and Zions is no exception, gaining 26% in the past month. Analysts are cautious about its prospects. Seven have it rated "strong buy," six "buy," 18 "hold," three "underperform" and one "sell," according to First Call/Thomson Financial. Their mean price target is $24.59.
6. American International Group ( AIG) is one of the largest insurance and financial-services firms in the world. It operates through a wide range of subsidiaries that provide general insurance, life insurance, lending and other financial services. The company is on the comeback trail after its near collapse in the 2007-09 financial crisis. It was bailed out by the government. Since then, it has sold off various units to raise cash and it was reported this week that its planned sale of Nan Shan Life, its Taiwanese life-insurance unit, is attracting bids of up to $3 billion. And this week AIG, said it now has $4.3 billion in bank credit lines in a deal struck with 30 lenders. Outlook: AIG is slowly recovering from its near failure. Its rise of 91% this year includes a 38% gain over the past month. Shares are up about 10% in the past week because of the expectation that it now has a clear plan to extricate itself from its past problems and pay back the government. Respected Fairholme Fund ( FAIRX) manager Bruce Berkowitz has a big bet on AIG, making it 7% of his fund's assets. Others are less optimistic about AIG's prospects. Analysts project five-year earnings growth of 9% versus 10.8% for the S&P500. It garners three "hold" and two "sell" ratings from analysts, according to FactSet.
4. Huntington Bancshares ( HBAN) is an Ohio-based regional bank with $50 billion in assets and more than 600 branches, making it one of the Midwest's largest banks. Retail banking accounts for about 80% of the company's operating income. The rest is split between auto financing and private banking and insurance. The company received a government bailout and wrote off its troubled loans since then. Early this month, it announced its plans to repay the $1.4 billion it holds in Troubled Asset Relief Program funds, which will require it to issue $1.2 billion in stock and debt, including $920 million in new common stock. Outlook: Huntington Bancshares is up 92% this year to $6.92, including a 20% jump in the past month, indicating the shares may be gathering steam as investors flock back to the financial sector and bet on the survivors. Keefe, Bruyette & Woods analyst Jefferson Harralson has the company on his recently released list of potential acquirers of other banks. Of the 22 analysts that follow the company, nine rate it "buy," two "outperform," seven "hold," one "underperform" and three "sell," according to FactSet.
2. F5 Networks' ( FFIV) Application Delivery Controller (ADC) products help companies manage their computer network traffic more efficiently. It also has products that address security concerns. F5's customer base has evolved from an initial focus on Internet service providers, Web sites and e-commerce sites to the Fortune 500 corporate IT market. Its clients now include: Citigroup ( C) and General Motors ( GM). F5 is taking market share from bigger competitors such as Cisco Systems ( CSCO). In fiscal 2010, revenue grew 35% as operating margins expanded to 26.1% from 19.3%. Outlook: In the fourth quarter, revenue rose 45%, which bodes well for 2011 as the pace of revenue growth increased throughout the year. Analysts' consensus five-year annualized earnings growth forecast is 23.5%, roughly double that of the S&P 500. Analysts give the company mixed reviews, with 14 rating it "buy," two "outperform" and one "sell," according to FactSet.