Pollution control stocks crept into the top 20 industry rankings this week after posting the top gain among the 197 industry groups tracked by IBD for November.

The group had ranked No. 62 on Nov. 1.

The pollution control group often rises when the market turns defensive. Waste collectors like Waste Management (WM) and Republic Services (RSG) act much like utilities, handling municipal trash hauling, landfills and waste-to-energy incinerators. That makes the businesses resilient in a downturn.

Stericycle (SRCL), which has often led the group’s gains, can also behave defensively. It is the top player in the specialized fields of medical and hazardous waste collection and disposal. The stock has been mired in a consolidation since April.

But the group’s biggest gains in November came from elsewhere in the group.

Perma-Fix Environmental Services (PESI) deals with nuclear waste management services. The very thinly traded stock jumped 15% for the month, but still remained well below $ 5 a share. The Atlanta-based company topped analysts’ third-quarter earnings estimates by 300% when it reported results Nov. 3.

Team (TISI), also a thinly traded stock, popped 9% for the month. The company, which builds and maintains industrial piping operations, posted a second quarter of accelerating sales growth and a fourth straight quarter of strong earnings growth in Q3.

Minneapolis-based Donaldson (DCI) holds the group’s top Composite Rating, a 98. It rose 5% in November, adding to a 17% advance for October. Donaldson manufacturers air and liquid filters used in a broad array of industries, aircraft and on- and off-road vehicles.

The company Nov. 17 reported fiscal first-quarter earnings rose 32%, though sales climbed a slower 13%. Management reiterated fiscal 2012 earnings guidance for between $ 3.25 and $ 3.50, vs. a $ 3.40 consensus.

The stock had cleared a cup-with-handle base in light trade during October. It pulled back to test 10-week support, but held above the base’s 60.63 buy point. It ended Wednesday 11% above that pivot.

Yahoo! Finance: Waste Management Industry News

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