You know the old adage: March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb as winter gives way to spring.
It seems the same dynamic is in play in the stock market, as U.S. equities surged higher on Tuesday with the calendar flipping to a new month. The result was a fresh breakout for the uptrend from the January-February lows, returning prices to levels last seen just after the New Year.
This did much to erase the memory of a disappointing February in the market: For the month, the S&P 500 lost 0.4 percent and remains down 5.5 percent for the quarter- and year-to-date.
Within that number, there's lots of variability. The folks at Bespoke Investment Group broke down the best and worst performers out of the Russell 1,000 large-cap index and found some interesting takeaways.
On the bright side, left-for-dead local coupon slinger Groupon (GRPN) was the hot commodity, posting a 75.7 percent gain. Representatives of the materials sector -- which has been enjoying a surge of relative strength -- came next with Freeport McMoRan (FCX) up 65.9 percent and Royal Gold (RGLD) up 55.7 percent.
A number of consumer discretionary/retail stocks were on the list as well, including Fossil Group (FOSL), Michael Kors Holdings (KORS) and JCPenney (JCP). The three gained 43.9 percent, 42 percent and 40.5 percent, respectively.
Overall, materials stocks led the way at the sector level with a 7.3 percent gain followed by industrials, which rose 3.5 percent. Digging in a little to the industry level, diversified metals and mining stocks were the runaway leaders with a 65.9 percent gain for the month. Gold and aluminum were next with increases of 29.4 percent and 22.5 percent, respectively.
Among the losers, a number of solar power companies were on the list as energy stocks overall continue to lag. SolarCity (SCTY) lost 48.3 percent, and SunEdison (SUNE) dropped 36.7 percent. Wearables maker FitBit (FIT) slid 26.3 percent after a solid holiday performance gave way to doubts about new product roll-outs.
At the sector level, financials were the laggards down 3.2 percent followed by energy, which lost 2.6 percent. At the industry level, real estate services shed 9.2 percent, while oil and gas exploration and production dropped 10.2 percent.
Looking ahead, things appear bright, with the S&P 500's gain of 2.4 percent on Tuesday being the best start to March in the index's history. The next best result, a 2.3 percent gain in 2002, gave way to a further 1.4 percent rise during the rest of the month.