The 2011 returns on electrical and construction stocks mirrored the skittish performance of the stock market as a whole, with a smattering of companies enjoying double-digit gains; a bunch of companies clumped around the S&P 500, Dow Jones and NASDAQ growth rates for year; and some stocks suffering from double-digit declines. Of the 30-plus publicly held companies that EW tracks, only 12 beat the S&P 500 Average for the full-year 2011, and 20 companies had share prices that finished the year lower than where they started it.

Leading the pack in 2011 was Generac Holdings, Inc., Waukesha, Wis., which finished up 73.8% for the year; Fastenal Inc., Winona, Minn., up 46.2% in 2011; Coleman Cable, Waukegan, Ill., up 37.9%; and W.W. Grainger Inc., Lake Forest, Ill., up 34.1%. Eleven stocks in this analysis were down double digits, led by LED manufacturer Cree Inc., Durham, N.C., which saw its shares slide 67% last year. Cree's 2011 fortunes on Wall Street illustrate the fickleness of the market, as its stock price was up 17% in 2010 and was up about 20% in 2012 (at press-time).