5 Best-Performing S&P 500 Stocks of 2011

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- The S&P 500 Index has fallen 3.1% from its 52-week high, recorded a month ago, as investors moved out of riskier assets, including commodities.

That leaves the benchmark with a 2011 gain of 5.5%, which is on pace to trail the performance of the previous two calendar years.

Amid the correction, leadership has shifted to defensive sectors, like health care, consumer staples and utility stocks, which were previously bull-market laggards. In the past four weeks, S&P telecommunications stocks delivered a median return of 6.4% and health-care shares gained 4.2%.

The list of concerns facing investors is piling up. Europe's debt woes, driven by Greece, threaten to stall economic growth in a region that's as large as the U.S. Japan just sank into a recession because of an environmental catastrophe, and China, the engine of global growth, is slowing amid higher interest rates.

All that has put the focus on U.S. stocks, which are being propelled by fat profit margins, accommodating monetary policy and an upcoming election year in which the state of the economy will take center stage, putting pressure on politicians to support business.

Hence, the best-performing large-caps of 2011 are growth stories. Below is closer look at these top stocks.

5. Electronic Arts ( ERTS) is a newcomer to the top-performing stocks list. The stock has advanced 44% in 2011, but, more impressively, has rocketed 17% in May, besting peer investments. The company, whose stock was previously recommended as a value pick, more than tripled its adjusted fiscal fourth-quarter earnings to 25 cents a share, beating analysts' consensus by 13%. EA boosted its top line 11% to $995 million, exceeding consensus.

The company was the No. 1 high-definition game publisher of the quarter and the No. 1 PC publisher, but its growth in digital revenue, which encompasses mobile games, digital downloads and social games that can be played on networks like that of Facebook, propelled the company. Digital revenue jumped past management's full-year guidance of $750 million to $833 million. It advanced 47% during the most recent quarter, helping net income.

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