NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The red-hot health care sector was a great place to put your money in the first half of the year. With nearly a 9% return, it handily beat the market, which was up a meager 0.2% over the same period.

Still, some health care stocks even outperformed the sector, returning incredibly strong double-digit returns. Here are the top 10. 

TheStreet paired the 10 best performing health care sector stocks with TheStreet Ratings to determine whether they really are good investments going forward.

TheStreet Ratings, TheStreet's proprietary ratings tool, projects a stock's total return potential over a 12-month period including both price appreciation and dividends. Based on 32 major data points, TheStreet Ratings uses a quantitative approach to rating over 4,300 stocks to predict return potential for the next year. The model is both objective, using elements such as volatility of past operating revenues, financial strength, and company cash flows, and subjective, including expected equities market returns, future interest rates, implied industry outlook and forecasted company earnings.

Buying an S&P 500 stock that TheStreet Ratings rated a "buy" yielded a 16.56% return in 2014 beating the S&P 500 Total Return Index by 304 basis points. Buying a Russell 2000 stock that TheStreet Ratings rated a "buy" yielded a 9.5% return in 2014, beating the Russell 2000 index, including dividends reinvested, by 460 basis points last year.

Check out which stocks were among the best health care performers in the S&P 500 for the quarter. And when you're done with that be sure to find out which financial stock had the worst performance in the S&P 500 for the first quarter.

HCA ChartHCA data by YCharts
10. HCA Holdings, Inc. (HCA - Get Report)

Market Cap: $37.6 billion
Year-to-date return: 23.6%
TheStreet Ratings: Buy, B-

HCA Holdings, Inc., through its subsidiaries, provides health care services in the United States.

"We rate HCA HOLDINGS INC (HCA) a BUY. This is driven by several positive factors, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income, revenue growth and good cash flow from operations. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows low profit margins."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • Powered by its strong earnings growth of 78.94% and other important driving factors, this stock has surged by 59.57% over the past year, outperforming the rise in the S&P 500 Index during the same period. Regarding the stock's future course, although almost any stock can fall in a broad market decline, HCA should continue to move higher despite the fact that it has already enjoyed a very nice gain in the past year.
  • HCA HOLDINGS INC reported significant earnings per share improvement in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, HCA HOLDINGS INC increased its bottom line by earning $4.18 versus $3.36 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($5.24 versus $4.18).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Health Care Providers & Services industry. The net income increased by 70.3% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $347.00 million to $591.00 million.
  • Despite its growing revenue, the company underperformed as compared with the industry average of 12.9%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 9.6%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 129.79% to $1,018.00 million when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, HCA HOLDINGS INC has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of 2.41%.

 

GILD ChartGILD data by YCharts
9. Gilead Sciences, Inc. (GILD - Get Report)

Market Cap: $172 billion
Year-to-date return: 24.2%
TheStreet Ratings: Buy, A

Gilead Sciences, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company, discovers, develops, and commercializes medicines in areas of unmet medical need in North America, South America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific.

"We rate GILEAD SCIENCES INC (GILD) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth, solid stock price performance, impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income and notable return on equity. Although the company may harbor some minor weaknesses, we feel they are unlikely to have a significant impact on results."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • GILD's very impressive revenue growth exceeded the industry average of 22.1%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues leaped by 51.9%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • Powered by its strong earnings growth of 107.51% and other important driving factors, this stock has surged by 46.98% over the past year, outperforming the rise in the S&P 500 Index during the same period. Regarding the stock's future course, although almost any stock can fall in a broad market decline, GILD should continue to move higher despite the fact that it has already enjoyed a very nice gain in the past year.
  • GILEAD SCIENCES INC reported significant earnings per share improvement in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, GILEAD SCIENCES INC increased its bottom line by earning $7.38 versus $1.83 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($10.61 versus $7.38).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Biotechnology industry. The net income increased by 94.5% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $2,227.41 million to $4,333.00 million.
  • The company's current return on equity greatly increased when compared to its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a signal of significant strength within the corporation. Compared to other companies in the Biotechnology industry and the overall market, GILEAD SCIENCES INC's return on equity significantly exceeds that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.

 

REGN ChartREGN data by YCharts
8. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (REGN - Get Report)
Market Cap: $53.7 billion
Year-to-date return: 24.3%
TheStreet Ratings: Buy, B

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company, discovers, invents, develops, manufactures, and commercializes medicines for the treatment of serious medical conditions worldwide.

"We rate REGENERON PHARMACEUTICALS (REGN) a BUY. This is driven by some important positives, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, solid stock price performance, growth in earnings per share and increase in net income. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had somewhat disappointing return on equity."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The revenue growth came in higher than the industry average of 22.1%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 39.0%. This growth in revenue appears to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, improving the earnings per share.
  • REGN's debt-to-equity ratio is very low at 0.16 and is currently below that of the industry average, implying that there has been very successful management of debt levels. Along with this, the company maintains a quick ratio of 3.88, which clearly demonstrates the ability to cover short-term cash needs.
  • Investors have apparently begun to recognize positive factors similar to those we have mentioned in this report, including earnings growth. This has helped drive up the company's shares by a sharp 84.86% over the past year, a rise that has exceeded that of the S&P 500 Index. We feel that the stock's sharp appreciation over the last year has driven it to a price level which is now somewhat expensive compared to the rest of its industry. The other strengths this company shows, however, justify the higher price levels.
  • REGENERON PHARMACEUTICALS has improved earnings per share by 8.2% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. But, we feel it is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, REGENERON PHARMACEUTICALS reported lower earnings of $3.09 versus $3.80 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($11.30 versus $3.09).
  • The company, on the basis of net income growth from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly underperformed compared to the Biotechnology industry average, but is greater than that of the S&P 500. The net income increased by 11.3% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $68.31 million to $76.02 million.

UHS ChartUHS data by YCharts
7. Universal Health Services, Inc. (UHS - Get Report)

Market Cap: $14 billion
Year-to-date return: 27.7%
TheStreet Ratings: Buy, A+

Universal Health Services, Inc., through its subsidiaries, owns and operates acute care hospitals, behavioral health centers, surgical hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, and radiation oncology centers.

"We rate UNIVERSAL HEALTH SVCS INC (UHS) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, solid stock price performance, growth in earnings per share and increase in net income. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows low profit margins."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • UHS's revenue growth has slightly outpaced the industry average of 12.9%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 14.8%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • The debt-to-equity ratio is somewhat low, currently at 0.80, and is less than that of the industry average, implying that there has been a relatively successful effort in the management of debt levels. Along with the favorable debt-to-equity ratio, the company maintains an adequate quick ratio of 1.13, which illustrates the ability to avoid short-term cash problems.
  • Powered by its strong earnings growth of 25.36% and other important driving factors, this stock has surged by 45.14% over the past year, outperforming the rise in the S&P 500 Index during the same period. Regarding the stock's future course, although almost any stock can fall in a broad market decline, UHS should continue to move higher despite the fact that it has already enjoyed a very nice gain in the past year.
  • UNIVERSAL HEALTH SVCS INC has improved earnings per share by 25.4% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, UNIVERSAL HEALTH SVCS INC increased its bottom line by earning $5.42 versus $5.13 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($6.55 versus $5.42).
  • The company, on the basis of net income growth from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly outperformed against the S&P 500 and exceeded that of the Health Care Providers & Services industry average. The net income increased by 26.2% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $138.08 million to $174.30 million.

 

ANTM ChartANTM data by YCharts
6. Anthem, Inc. (ANTM - Get Report)

Market Cap: $43.4 billion
Year-to-date return: 30.6%
TheStreet Ratings: Buy, A+

Anthem, Inc., through its subsidiaries, operates as a health benefits company in the United States. It operates through three segments: Commercial and Specialty Business, Government Business, and Other.

"We rate ANTHEM INC (ANTM) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income, revenue growth and largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows low profit margins."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • Powered by its strong earnings growth of 30.37% and other important driving factors, this stock has surged by 56.64% over the past year, outperforming the rise in the S&P 500 Index during the same period. Regarding the stock's future course, although almost any stock can fall in a broad market decline, ANTM should continue to move higher despite the fact that it has already enjoyed a very nice gain in the past year.
  • ANTHEM INC has improved earnings per share by 30.4% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, ANTHEM INC increased its bottom line by earning $8.95 versus $8.66 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($10.00 versus $8.95).
  • The company, on the basis of net income growth from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly outperformed against the S&P 500 and exceeded that of the Health Care Providers & Services industry average. The net income increased by 23.4% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $701.00 million to $865.20 million.
  • Despite its growing revenue, the company underperformed as compared with the industry average of 12.9%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 6.7%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • The debt-to-equity ratio is somewhat low, currently at 0.65, and is less than that of the industry average, implying that there has been a relatively successful effort in the management of debt levels. To add to this, ANTM has a quick ratio of 1.50, which demonstrates the ability of the company to cover short-term liquidity needs.

 

HUM ChartHUM data by YCharts
5. Humana Inc. (HUM - Get Report)

Market Cap: $28.7 billion
Year-to-date return: 33.2%
TheStreet Ratings: Buy, B+

Humana Inc., together with its subsidiaries, operates as a health and well-being company. The company operates through three segments: Retail, Group, and Healthcare Services.

"We rate HUMANA INC (HUM) a BUY. This is driven by a number of strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, solid stock price performance, increase in net income and growth in earnings per share. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows weak operating cash flow."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • HUM's revenue growth has slightly outpaced the industry average of 12.9%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 18.1%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • The current debt-to-equity ratio, 0.38, is low and is below the industry average, implying that there has been successful management of debt levels. Along with the favorable debt-to-equity ratio, the company maintains an adequate quick ratio of 1.22, which illustrates the ability to avoid short-term cash problems.
  • Investors have apparently begun to recognize positive factors similar to those we have mentioned in this report, including earnings growth. This has helped drive up the company's shares by a sharp 53.05% over the past year, a rise that has exceeded that of the S&P 500 Index. Regarding the stock's future course, although almost any stock can fall in a broad market decline, HUM should continue to move higher despite the fact that it has already enjoyed a very nice gain in the past year.
  • The company, on the basis of net income growth from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly outperformed against the S&P 500 and exceeded that of the Health Care Providers & Services industry average. The net income increased by 16.8% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $368.00 million to $430.00 million.
  • HUMANA INC has improved earnings per share by 20.0% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. But, we feel it is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, HUMANA INC reported lower earnings of $7.33 versus $7.70 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($8.67 versus $7.33).

 

BSX ChartBSX data by YCharts
4. Boston Scientific Corporation (BSX - Get Report)

Market Cap: $23.8 billion
Year-to-date return: 33.6%
TheStreet Ratings: Buy, B-

Boston Scientific Corporation develops, manufactures, and markets medical devices for use in various interventional medical specialties worldwide. The company operates in three segments: Cardiovascular, Rhythm Management, and MedSurg.

"We rate BOSTON SCIENTIFIC CORP (BSX) a BUY. This is driven by several positive factors, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, expanding profit margins and largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had sub par growth in net income."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • Compared to its closing price of one year ago, BSX's share price has jumped by 43.54%, exceeding the performance of the broader market during that same time frame. Turning to the future, naturally, any stock can fall in a major bear market. However, in almost any other environment, the stock should continue to move higher despite the fact that it has already enjoyed nice gains in the past year.
  • The gross profit margin for BOSTON SCIENTIFIC CORP is currently very high, coming in at 73.98%. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Regardless of the strong results of the gross profit margin, the net profit margin of -0.05% is in-line with the industry average.
  • The debt-to-equity ratio is somewhat low, currently at 0.66, and is less than that of the industry average, implying that there has been a relatively successful effort in the management of debt levels. Despite the fact that BSX's debt-to-equity ratio is low, the quick ratio, which is currently 0.57, displays a potential problem in covering short-term cash needs.
  • BOSTON SCIENTIFIC CORP has experienced a steep decline in earnings per share in the most recent quarter in comparison to its performance from the same quarter a year ago. The company has suffered a declining pattern of earnings per share over the past year. However, we anticipate this trend reversing over the coming year. During the past fiscal year, BOSTON SCIENTIFIC CORP reported poor results of -$0.10 versus -$0.08 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($0.90 versus -$0.10).
  • BSX, with its decline in revenue, underperformed when compared the industry average of 21.4%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly dropped by 0.3%. The declining revenue appears to have seeped down to the company's bottom line, decreasing earnings per share.


AET ChartAET data by YCharts
3. Aetna Inc. (AET)
Market Cap: $44.5 billion
Year-to-date return: 43.4%
TheStreet Ratings: Buy, A+

Aetna Inc. operates as a health care benefits company in the United States. It operates through three segments: Health Care, Group Insurance, and Large Case Pensions.

"We rate AETNA INC (AET) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, growth in earnings per share, increase in net income, revenue growth and attractive valuation levels. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows low profit margins."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • Investors have apparently begun to recognize positive factors similar to those we have mentioned in this report, including earnings growth. This has helped drive up the company's shares by a sharp 60.80% over the past year, a rise that has exceeded that of the S&P 500 Index. Regarding the stock's future course, although almost any stock can fall in a broad market decline, AET should continue to move higher despite the fact that it has already enjoyed a very nice gain in the past year.
  • AETNA INC has improved earnings per share by 20.9% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, AETNA INC increased its bottom line by earning $5.66 versus $5.35 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($7.40 versus $5.66).
  • The company, on the basis of net income growth from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly outperformed against the S&P 500 and exceeded that of the Health Care Providers & Services industry average. The net income increased by 16.8% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $665.50 million to $777.50 million.
  • Despite its growing revenue, the company underperformed as compared with the industry average of 12.9%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 7.8%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.

 

HSP ChartHSP data by YCharts
2. Hospira, Inc. (HSP)

Market Cap: $15.3 billion
Year-to-date return: 44.8%
TheStreet Ratings: Buy, B

Hospira, Inc. provides injectable drugs and infusion technologies to develop, manufacture, distribute, and market products worldwide. The company operates through Americas, EMEA, and APAC segments.

"We rate HOSPIRA INC (HSP) a BUY. This is driven by several positive factors, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, growth in earnings per share, expanding profit margins and solid stock price performance. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows weak operating cash flow."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The revenue growth came in higher than the industry average of 1.9%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 11.8%. This growth in revenue appears to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, improving the earnings per share.
  • The current debt-to-equity ratio, 0.51, is low and is below the industry average, implying that there has been successful management of debt levels. Along with the favorable debt-to-equity ratio, the company maintains an adequate quick ratio of 1.20, which illustrates the ability to avoid short-term cash problems.
  • HOSPIRA INC has improved earnings per share by 7.5% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, HOSPIRA INC turned its bottom line around by earning $1.95 versus -$0.05 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($3.02 versus $1.95).
  • The gross profit margin for HOSPIRA INC is rather high; currently it is at 50.30%. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Despite the strong results of the gross profit margin, HSP's net profit margin of 6.43% significantly trails the industry average.
  • Investors have apparently begun to recognize positive factors similar to those we have mentioned in this report, including earnings growth. This has helped drive up the company's shares by a sharp 71.18% over the past year, a rise that has exceeded that of the S&P 500 Index. We feel that the stock's sharp appreciation over the last year has driven it to a price level which is now somewhat expensive compared to the rest of its industry. The other strengths this company shows, however, justify the higher price levels.

CI ChartCI data by YCharts
1. Cigna Corporation (CI - Get Report)

Market Cap: $41.7 billion
Year-to-date return: 57.4%
TheStreet Ratings: Buy, A+

Cigna Corporation, a health services organization, provides insurance and related products and services in the United States and internationally.

"We rate CIGNA CORP (CI) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, notable return on equity, good cash flow from operations and solid stock price performance. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows low profit margins."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • Despite its growing revenue, the company underperformed as compared with the industry average of 12.9%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 11.4%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • The current debt-to-equity ratio, 0.55, is low and is below the industry average, implying that there has been successful management of debt levels.
  • The return on equity has improved slightly when compared to the same quarter one year prior. This can be construed as a modest strength in the organization. Compared to other companies in the Health Care Providers & Services industry and the overall market, CIGNA CORP's return on equity exceeds that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • Investors have apparently begun to recognize positive factors similar to those we have mentioned in this report, including earnings growth. This has helped drive up the company's shares by a sharp 84.31% over the past year, a rise that has exceeded that of the S&P 500 Index. Regarding the stock's future course, although almost any stock can fall in a broad market decline, CI should continue to move higher despite the fact that it has already enjoyed a very nice gain in the past year.
  • CIGNA CORP has improved earnings per share by 6.3% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, CIGNA CORP increased its bottom line by earning $7.82 versus $5.20 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($8.50 versus $7.82).