Just before Independence Day, InvestorPlace updated its Real America Index, adding 36 new components to the list of 51 publicly traded companies headquartered in the U.S. and the District of Columbia.
With its state-level look at companies, the Real America Index aims to provide an exclusive perspective into the U.S. economy and businesses in local communities.
So, the next logical question is pretty obvious: How’s the index doing? Well, two-thirds of the picks are in the black for the year, around half are topping the Dow’s performance since January, and the top 20 are all besting the S&P 500′s 12% YTD gains.
And some, in particular, have really put on a performance America can be proud of. Check out the top 10 performers of the Real America Index as of market close last Friday:
10. Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), State: Arkansas, YTD Return: 21%
9. Illinois Tool Works (NYSE:ITW), State: Illinois, YTD Return: 27%
8. DaVita (NYSE:DVA), State: Colorado, YTD Return: 28%
7. Denny’s (NASDAQ:DENN), State: South Carolina, YTD Return: 30%
6. Express Scripts (NASDAQ:ESRX), State: Missouri, YTD Return: 40%
And now, onto the best five:
No. 5: Bank of America
State: North Carolina
YTD Return: 44%
Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) took a huge hit in the wake of the financial crisis, but it looks to be back on track lately despite facing whistleblower and shareholder lawsuits.
The key to such success has no doubt been BofA’s restructuring efforts. It cut costs by laying off tens of thousands of workers last year and by reducing expenses from its investment banking and trading operations.
And while layoffs are never desired, the results sure look good. BofA is up a whopping 44% since January.
The company still some work to do though, and it’s slightly in the red for the last 12 months despite those gains.
Regardless, the Charlotte-based bank serves about 56 million clients across the nation and still has more than 200,000 American workers on its payroll. Heck, it even has a patriotic logo. And so far this year, its returns are definitely something America can be proud of.
No. 4: Sherwin-Williams
YTD Return: 60%
Sherwin-Williams (NYSE:SHW) is headquartered right in the heart of Cleveland, while the stock sits right near the heart of RAI’s top five.
The paint company has a pretty colorful resume, too. Besides its impressive outperformance in the index, it’s also hanging out in all-time-high territory these days and is one of InvestorPlace‘s Dependable Dividend Stocks.
Tack that stable payout onto the SHW’s 60% year-to-date gains, and you’ve got a pretty appealing option. The only downside is that SHW’s run-up has dropped its dividend yield to just over 1%.
Still, Sherwin is looking like an all-star. Even the impact of negative currency couldn’t slow it down in the most recent quarter, as revenues jumped 10% and earnings rose by 27% year-over-year. Plus, in 2011, the company set a record in terms of revenue, bringing in around $8.7 billion. U.S.A! U.S.A!
No. 3: Under Armour
YTD Return: 62%
Under Armour (NYSE:UA) was started by a University of Maryland alum and has gradually gained a foothold in the athletic apparel market.
In fact, its innovation in terms of athletic apparel, including its ColdGear and HeatGear technology, led InvestorPlace Assistant Editor Marc Bastow to choose UA as the stock most likely to be the next growth success story on par with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL).
And things do look pretty good so far. Most recently, Under Armour saw a boost thanks to a two-for-one split of its common stock — the first since it went public in 2005. Shares have gained 23% since the split in June, contributing to the stock’s impressive 62% jump so far this year.
The company also beat expectations in both quarters so far this year, even as rival and fellow RAI component Nike (representing Oregon) has struggled of late. And for the next five years, analysts expect annualized growth of 24% — more than double their estimate for the S&P 500.
No. 2: Apple
YTD Return: 64%
No matter if Under Armour might be the next Apple — this Apple is still here. And when highlighting its performance this year, it’s hard to know where to start. Sure, 64% stock price gains are nice. But what else should we talk about?
Should we mention its recent patent victory over rival Samsung? Should we throw in the highly anticipated upcoming release of its iPhone 5? Or maybe its foray into the 7-inch tablet market with the s0-called iPad mini? We could also talk about the fact that it recently soared to a record U.S. market cap?
Yes to all those things. But you know that. You’ve heard it all before and you’ve seen it first hand. Heck, you probably own an iPod, Mac, iPhone, iPad or maybe even one of each. Apple has undoubtedly revolutionized technology and thus continues to soar.
In fact, making a bearish case for Apple its pretty hard — although InvestorPlace Editor Jeff Reeves has at least tried. The only surprise about seeing its name on this list is that it didn’t take the top spot. Speaking of which …
No. 1: Sprint Nextel
YTD Return: 107%
Verizon (NYSE:V) and AT&T (NYSE:T), move over. Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) may be the third-largest wireless provider in the nation, but it’s the best stock overall in Real America Index component — and it takes the cake by a landslide.
Talk about a black horse. When we picked Sprint for the index, it’s position as third-best in the industry looked iffy at best. “Unfortunately, it will be difficult road ahead for Sprint,” InvestorPlace Assistant Editor Marc Bastow wrote. And contributor James Brumley agreed months later. “It’s probably the last thing anybody would have seen coming.”
Still, shares have soared — and gained in triple-digits even on the heels of its increased losses in Q2.
What gives? Well, the company recently launched its own 4G LTE network, started offering the iPhone, still provides unlimited data and has been consistently adding subscribers. The main question is whether Sprint can start pocketing a profit from all its improvements — and whether shares can keep climbing as a result.
For now, though, I’m sure Sprint feels good being on top.