By Frank Byrt, TheStreet.com
BOSTON -- The top 10 performers in the benchmark S&P 500 so far this year aren't easy to characterize. They range from Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold to Bank of America.
The S&P 500 gained 4.4% in January, the biggest increase for that month in 15 years, helped by signs the European sovereign debt crisis that has hung like a cloud over the markets might be coming to a resolution soon. And, perhaps secondarily, the Federal Reserve said it would remain active in boosting the economy and keep inflation in check.
The top 10 companies in the S&P 500 in January had share gains that were clustered in the 27% to 39% range, with DVD and digital entertainment deliverer Netflix the outlier with a whopping 77% jump.
Still, if you look back to the end of 2010, many of these stocks are still in the hole, so a month or so of increases doesn't wipe that out.
In inverse order of return, here are the S&P 500's 10 best-performing stocks of January:
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