Wall Street has been having somewhat of a temper tantrum lately, with last week’s series of declines for the stock market seemingly suggesting lasting concerns about the state of affairs for the economy, public health, and government action. Investors seemed to be a little more upbeat about the prospects for stocks Monday morning. As of just before 7 a.m. EDT, futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) were up 189 points to 34,796. S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) futures rose 24 points to 4,482, and Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) futures picked up 71 points to 15,513.

Technology stocks get a huge amount of attention, and they’ve certainly deserved it lately, given their strong performance. However, even when you look outside the tech arena, you can find some high-performing stocks with good prospects ahead. Below, we’ll look at two big winners that have already doubled this year — Nucor (NYSE:NUE) and Crocs (NASDAQ:CROX) — and provide some insight on why they have performed well and whether the good times can continue.

Nucor steels its resolve

Nucor has been one of the hottest companies in the steel industry so far this year. Even after pulling back slightly from its all-time highs last month, the stock is still up 111% in 2021.

Image source: Getty Images.

Nucor is arguably the strongest steelmaker in the U.S. from a financial perspective, having weathered the storm that the pandemic threw at it without seeing much deterioration in its balance sheet. With its smaller steel mill facilities, Nucor has more flexibility to react to changing steel market conditions, and that has served it well in recent years.

Signs that the global economy was starting to recover from the worst impacts of the pandemic were a positive for Nucor, especially as steel prices worldwide showed signs of improvement. More recently, action in Washington to move forward with an infrastructure bill had obvious positive implications for Nucor, given the vital role that steel will play in many key infrastructure projects across the nation.

Some investors fear that the cyclical nature of the steel industry means that Nucor will inevitably have to give up its gains. Yet if the economic recovery gets supercharged by infrastructure spending and other special initiatives, then it could provide the boost necessary to take Nucor to the next level.

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

Elsewhere, the retail sector has been the focus of attention for many investors lately. Rebounds from tough conditions last year have sent some retail stocks higher. But a big story has come from the specialty footwear arena, where Crocs has been able to gain ground in both 2020 and 2021. The company’s stock gains amount to 130% year to date.

Crocs is a rare example of a consumer-oriented company whose products went through a fad, fell out of fashion, and then returned to the spotlight for a second bite at the apple. The brand inspires strong feelings from both fans and naysayers, but that often proves to be a recipe for success by helping to mobilize buyers in response to criticism. Moreover, Crocs has gotten smart about marketing, tapping into a new generation of consumers with an irreverent approach that’s highly appealing.

The shoemaker’s sales have been extraordinary. In its most recent quarter, Crocs saw sales nearly double from year-earlier levels. The shoes are getting international appeal, with China and Europe seeing big gains as well as the U.S. market.

Many investors think Crocs is just a fad, but the company is making some smart moves now that are a lot different from its strategy more than a decade ago. That bodes well for Crocs for the rest of 2021 and beyond.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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