With all the talk by Wall Street commentators and bloggers about the possibility that the Dow Jones Industrial Average might start living over the vaunted 14,000-level and recent reports of several electrical stocks hitting 52-week highs, EW's editors thought it would be a good time to see how electrical stocks stack up with the overall market. We compared the stock prices since Jan. 1 and over the past 12 months of 29 publicly held manufacturers, nine distributors of electrical supplies, and two contractors involved in electrical work with the Dow Jones Index, S&P Index and NASDAQ Composite.

These electrical companies more than held their own over the past 12 months. From Feb. 6, 2012, to Feb. 6 2013, as a group these 40 stocks beat all three of the major stock market averages by increasing an average of 12.9%, compared to 12.2% for the S&P 500; 9% for the NASDAQ Composite; and 8.7% for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The two contractor stocks, Emcor Group Inc. and Quanta Services Inc., did the best against these industry benchmarks YTY and were up a whopping 24.3%. Electrical manufacturers were up 13.9%, and distributor stocks lagged these indices a bit at 6.9%.

So far this year, the stock prices of publicly held electrical companies and other distributors are tracking the indices pretty closely. Through early February the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 4.1% year-to-date, followed by the S&P 500 Index at 3.2% and the Nasdaq Composite at 1.6%. As a group, the 40 stocks analyzed were up 3.6% through Feb. 6, with manufacturers (+3.7%), distributors (+3.5%) and contractors (+3.1%) all within a percentage point.

There were some clear standouts amongst the publicly held electrical stocks over the past year, with 16 stocks enjoying a stock price increase of more than 20% and seven stocks enjoying increases of or near 30% YTY: Generac Holdings Inc. (+79.5%); Federal Signal (+70.3%); Cree Inc. (+57.3%); Philips Electronics (+55.6%); Pentair (+36.5%); Wolseley plc (33.8%); and Hubbell Inc. (+29.8%).

Several of these stocks are way ahead of the pack since the beginning of the year, too: Cree (+27.6%); Philips Electronics (+13.24%); and Generac Holdings (+10.61%). Two other stocks were already up more than 10% for the year: Magnetek Inc. (+21.83%) and Avnet Inc. (+13.7%).