BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks have tumbled 15% from a 52-week high three months ago, as investors moved out of riskier assets on signs the economy is slowing. Still, a diverse group of S&P 500 stocks, from MasterCard ( MA) to Lorillard ( LO), have climbed as much as 84% this year.The S&P 500, the benchmark for equity investments in the U.S., is now down almost 8% in 2011 after two years of strong gains. The decline is largely the result of a tumultuous August, when the U.S. saw its triple-A credit rating downgraded by Standard & Poor's for the first time in history following a tense debate over the debt ceiling. Stocks, as measured by the S&P 500, have slumped 10% this month.
10. Discover Financial ( DFS) Company Profile: Discover is a U.S. credit card issuer, and offers customers other consumer loans and deposit products. 2011 Total Return: 32.3% Current Share Price: $24.40 (Aug. 25) Unlike most financial stocks that have been mired in the red, shares of Discover have outperformed the market this year. In July, the stock hit a 52-week high of $28 shortly after Discover reported a 133% increase in second-quarter net income. The jump in profit came thanks to an increase in card sales volume and total loans, as well as a decline in provisions for loan losses. The conservative lending approach has made the stock a favorite among analysts. Thirteen researchers have a "buy" rating on shares, including FBR Capital and Sandler O'Neill, and another 10 say investors should hold onto shares. No Wall Street firm has a "sell" rating on the stock, according to a Bloomberg survey of analysts. The average price target of $29 represents upside potential of 17%.
8. Intuitive Surgical ( ISRG) Company Profile: Intuitive Surgical designs, manufactures and markets its da Vinci robotic surgical systems, EndoWrist instruments, and surgical accessories. 2011 Total Return: 34.5% Current Share Price: $346.87 (Aug. 25) Shares of Intuitive Surgical briefly topped $400 in July after the company posted second-quarter financial results. The company posted earnings of $2.91 a share on revenue of $426 million, which both topped analysts' expectations. The report was strong enough to push Goldman Sachs analysts to upgrade the stock the next day to "neutral" from "sell." Another 11 analysts rate the stock "hold," according to a Bloomberg survey, while the remaining eight say investors should buy the stock. The average price target of $407.73 means analysts expect the stock to rise another 17.5% from current levels.
6. AutoNation ( AN) Company Profile: AutoNation is the largest auto-dealership chain in the U.S. The company offers a range of automotive products and services, including new vehicles, used vehicles, parts and automotive repair and maintenance services, and automotive finance and insurance products. 2011 Total Return: 35.9% Current Share Price: $38.32 (Aug. 25) Shares of AutoNation sit near an all-time high, but the stock is actually among the S&P 500 constituents with the largest negative gap between share price and analyst targets. According to a survey by Bloomberg, analysts have an average price target of $32.50, 17% below current levels. Most analysts are neutral or bearish on the stock; AutoNation garners no "buy" ratings from the 14 analysts following the stock. Despite the dour view of analysts, AutoNation continues to perform. Second-quarter revenue increased nearly 8%, although that fell short of estimates due to shortages from Japanese manufacturers following the tsunami and earthquake.
4. Lorillard ( LO) Company Profile: Lorillard makes cigarettes and tobacco in the U.S., marketed under the brand names of Newport, Kent, True, Maverick and Old Gold. 2011 Total Return: 36.7% Current Share Price: $109.11 (Aug. 25) Lorillard garners eight "buy" ratings and four "hold" ratings from analysts. Goldman Sachs among the most bullish with a $123 price target, and Deutsche Bank is among the most skeptical with a price target of $103. The comes after Lorillard beat quarterly profit and sales expectations on improved cigarette volume and higher selling prices. Lorillard made headlines as it was one of a group of tobacco makers suing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, alleging that new graphic labeling rules are unconstitutional. Lorillard said requiring cigarette makers to display one of the nine new warning labels on each package is "an unconstitutional way of forcing tobacco manufacturers to disseminate the government's anti-smoking message."
2. National Semiconductor ( NSM) Company Profile: National Semiconductor designs and manufactures a range of semiconductor products, most of which are analog and mixed-signal integrated circuits. 2011 Total Return: 81.5% Current Share Price: $24.80 (Aug. 25) While many technology stocks have languished this year, National Semi has bucked the trend to be the second-best performer among all stocks in the S&P 500. The strong performance has little to do with how well National Semi is performing operationally. In April, Texas Instruments announced a deal to acquire the company for $25 a share in an all-cash transaction of about $6.5 billion. For that reason, most analysts who still cover National Semi rate the stock "hold" with an average price target of $25. The deal is expected to close sometime later this year, according to the companies.