Best performing stocks since 2000

Best performing stocks since 2000 DEFAULT

Best Performing Stocks Since 2000: What if You had Invested $100?

Stock prices move up and down every day, but the very best companies bring value to their shareholders over the long term. Since 2019 is almost over, we wanted to understand the top 10 stocks so far this century. At least some of the companies making the list might surprise you.

Best performing stocks

  • Monster’s stock earns the top spot, where an initial investment of $100 would be worth $62,444 today.
  • Netflix ($23,071) and Apple ($7,416), two of the famous FAANG stocks, also make the top ten, but they aren’t nearly as valuable as the energy drink maker.
  • Other notable companies like Walmart and Berkshire Hathaway don’t make the top 10.
  • There’s a significant diversity of industries represented in the top 10, from consumer products and tech companies to retail and financial services.

Business Insider originally created a list of the top 10 best-performing stocks this century. We looked up the stock prices for each one on Yahoo Finance as of December 31, 1999, or the date the company went public, whichever was later. Imagine you invested $100. Our visual shows how much you’d have as of October 22, 2019.

Total Return (%) on $100 Investment

1. Monster Beverage: 62,444%
2. Netflix: 23,071%
3. Equinix: 12,050%
4. Tractor Supply Company: 10,171%
5. Intuitive Surgical: 9,155%
6. Ansys: 7,856%
7. Apple: 7,416%
8. IDEXX Laboratories: 6,822%
9. Mastercard: 6,279%
10. Ross Stores: 6,003%

Monster Beverage, the maker of the famous energy drink, takes the top spot by a landslide. An initial investment of just $100 on 12/31/1999 would be worth an astounding $62,444 today. That is substantially more than any other company in the top 10, including the tech heavyweights of Netflix ($23,071) and Apple ($7,416). Stock in Equinix and the Tractor Supply Company both returned over 10,000% over the last 20 years, quite an impressive accomplishment, but nowhere near Monster’s performance.

It’s also worth mentioning the significant diversity of companies present in the top 10. There’s no single sector that dominates the ranking. Monster is an energy drink company, Netflix is a streaming service, and Equinix provides data services. The other companies on our list are in things like medical supply, financial services and retail. This is more evidence that you shouldn’t invest your entire portfolio in just one industry.

And there are several notable companies missing from our list too. Where are the rest of the FAANG companies, Facebook, Amazon and Google? And what about other famous companies like Walmart, Exxon or Berkshire Hathaway? To be fair, some of these companies didn’t exist at the start of the century, and so perhaps they haven’t had enough time to rack up returns. It’s also worth noting that our methodology favors companies that started out with low share prices that ended very high. A single share of Berkshire Hathaway, for example, is worth well over $300,000. However, it’s still surprising that Walmart and Exxon are nowhere to be found.

And here’s a final question. Imagine you really did invest $100 in a company like Monster or Netflix all those years ago. Would you hold the investment for another 20 years? Or sell the shares immediately? Let us know in the comments.

About the article


“Where are they now” is always a fascinating game to play, and it works just as well with stocks as it does for your graduating class.

Right now, the class presidents are tech stocks. FAAMG – Facebook (FB), Apple (AAPL), Amazon (AMZN), Microsoft (MSFT), and Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL) – are dominating the major indices and now represent around 23% of the S&P 500 (^GSPC).

Since the start of 2016, Goldman Sachs pointed out in a recent note, FAAMG has returned 244%. The rest of the S&P 500 (495 stocks) returned 41%.

Goldman acknowledges that the past is useful for reminding us that the top dogs of the past may not necessarily be the top dogs of the future.

The last time five stocks exerted such a force on an index was in 2000, at the height of the tech bubble. The top five stocks were Microsoft, Cisco (CSCO), Exxon Mobil (XOM), GE (GE), and Intel (INTC); they represented 18% of the index.

Chairman of Microsoft Corporation Bill Gates gestures during news conference in New Delhi September 14, 2000. Gates, on a day-long visit to boost his company's internet strategy, signed a global strategic deal with Indian software giant Infosys.    KK

Five years later, Goldman pointed out, they represented just 12% of the index’s market capitalization. And 20 years later, they represent 8%.

“As firms become larger, rapid growth is challenging and threats to market positioning are plentiful,” Goldman’s analysts wrote.

For tech companies, the biggest threat might be the government’s antitrust probes, which could allow for some new competitors to step in — something that hasn’t really happened much thus far. Of those five current leaders, only Microsoft isn’t facing a federal antitrust investigation (the company faced one in 2001). Most of those top five companies, Goldman notes, didn’t hit their expected sales growth rates or earnings numbers, proving that it’s hard to stay on top.

Notably, Microsoft has also maintained its position. It was riding high in 2000, and it’s riding high now. But the market turns over quickly and 5% of the S&P 500 turns over each year and new companies emerge, like Facebook, which Goldman notes was not in existence in 2000.

The future big dogs of the index

Rapid sales growth in any economic environment (secular) is the defining characteristic of these big five FAAMG stocks, Goldman analysts say, as they look into the index to see which companies might become the usurpers to the big five.

Photo by: John Nacion/STAR MAX/IPx 2020 7/30/20 A view of Google Headquarter's as New York City enters Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on July 30, 2020 in New York City. The fourth phase allows outdoor arts and entertainment, sporting events without fans and media production. Google CEO Sundar PichaiTells Congress Google Is Not Working with the Chinese Military.

The analysts use what they call the “rule of 10,” which is checking to see if the company has realized 10% or more in sales growth for each of the past two years, and whether there’s a consensus estimate that it’ll do 10% or more for the next two.

“Rule of Ten stocks have generally been more likely to increase than decrease their ranks in the S&P 500 by 10 or more places,” the Goldman analysts wrote.

The S&P 500 has 21 stocks that meet that criteria, outside of FAAMG, including Netflix (NFLX), Twitter (TWTR) in the communications services sector, Monster Beverage (MNST); one energy company, Diamondback Energy (FANG); Intuitive Surgical (ISRG) and a few other health stocks; and 10 tech companies, including Salesforce (CRM), Paypal (PYPL), Adobe (ADBE), and Mastercard (MA).

While these stocks make the cut for potential index-leaders by Goldman’s test, their estimated sales growth numbers are 18%, which is behind FAAMG’s 22%.


Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance focusing on consumer issues, personal finance, retail, airlines, and more. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.

  1. Christmas village pigeon forge hotel
  2. Hp elitebook 1030 x360 g7
  3. Call of duty ghosts guide
  4. Free fake parking ticket printable
  5. Best gas mileage used minivan

These are the 10 best-performing stocks of this century

Monster Energy
  • We've put together a list of the 10 best-performing stocks in the S&P 500 this century.
  • Some household names including Apple, Netflix, and Mastercard made the cut.
  • The best performer was Monster Beverage with a return of more than 70,000%.
  • Watch Ross Stores, Apple, Mastercard, Idexx Laboratories, Ansys, Intuitive Surgical, Equinix, Tractor Supply, Netflix, and Monster Beverage trade live.

Stocks can soar and plunge on a daily basis, but over time, the companies that consistently and responsibly grow their operations and show clear signs of progress tend to be rewarded by investors.

The 10 best-performing stocks in the S&P 500 index since 2000 are listed below, starting with number 10.

10. Ross Stores

Shutterstock/Ken Wolter

Return: 4,161%

Ross Stores is the largest off-price retailer in the US, offering discounts of 20% to 60% on name-brand apparel, footwear, and other items compared to department and specialty stores. The company opened its first Ross Dress for Less in 1982 and now runs more than 1,700 stores across 38 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam.

Ross Stores has grown its revenue from $2.7 billion in the year to February 2001 to $15 billion last fiscal year, and net income from about $152 million to $1.6 billion over the same period.

9. Apple


Return: 4,900%

Apple is one of the most valuable companies in the world with a market capitalization of more than $800 billion. Its founders, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, together with current CEO Tim Cook, have revolutionized computing, communication, entertainment and other industries with products such as the iPod, iPad, iPhone, and Macintosh, and services such as the App Store, Apple Pay, and iTunes.

The tech titan sold close to 218 million iPhones last fiscal year. It has grown its net sales from just under $8 billion in the year to September 2000 to $266 billion last fiscal year, and net income from $786 million to $59.5 billion over the same period.

8. Mastercard


Return: 5,495%

Mastercard, founded in 1966, is one of the world's largest payment-services companies. It issues credit and debit cards under the Mastercard, Maestro, and Cirrus brands. It has more than 800 million cards in circulation, and recorded $5.9 trillion in gross dollar volumes in 2018, according to its annual report.

The group has grown its revenue from about $1.4 billion in 2000 to $15 billion last year, and its net income from $118 million to $5.9 billion over the same period.

7. Idexx Laboratories


Return: 6,082%

Idexx Laboratories provides veterinary diagnostics, practice-management software, and biological testing in more than 175 countries. Its products and services are used to treat small pets, livestock, and poultry, to test water quality and dairy products, and to analyse human patients' electrolytes and blood gases.

Idexx has grown revenues from $367 million in 2000 to $2.2 billion in 2018, and net income more than tenfold to $377 million over the same period.

6. Ansys

Wikimedia Commons

Return: 6,657%

Ansys provides engineering-simulation software and services to customers including General Electric, Samsung, Ford, and Philips. Its offerings are used by engineers, designers, researchers, and students across industries including aerospace and defense, automotive, energy, consumer products, healthcare, and sports.

Ansys has grown its revenues from about $74 million in 2000 to $1.3 billion in revenue last year, and net income from $16 million to $419 million over the same period.

5. Intuitive Surgical

AP Photo/Courtesy of Intuitive Surgical, Inc.

Return: 7,961%

Intuitive Surgical specialises in minimally invasive, robotic-assisted platforms, and services. More than 44,000 surgeons are trained to use its da Vinci surgical system, which has been deployed in more than 5 million procedures, including 1 million last year. The company has installed nearly 5,000 Da Vinci systems in hospitals worldwide, according to its latest annual report.

Intuitive has grown its sales from about $27 million in 2000 to $3.7 billion last year, and swung from a net loss of around $19 million to $1.1 billion in net income over the same period.

4. Equinix

Thomson Reuters

Return: 8,502%

Equinix connects more than 9,800 companies to their customers and partners through its data centers and interconnection platform. Netflix, AT&T, Ford, and PayPal use its hub to access services such as cloud storage from Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.

Equinix has grown from revenues of $13 million in 2000 to $5.1 billion last year, and transformed a net loss of $120 million into net income of $365 million over the same period.

3. Tractor Supply


Return: 10,240%

Tractor Supply is the largest retailer of farm-and-ranch supplies and equipment in America. Founded in 1938, it boasted 1,940 stores across 49 states at the end of 2018, according to its annual report. Livestock and pet products accounted for 47% of its net sales, while hardware, tools, and truck products made up 22%. Seasonal, gift, and toy products generated 19%, and clothing and footwear and agriculture products made up the balance.

Tractor Supply has grown its net sales more than tenfold in less than 20 years, from $759 million in 2000 to to $7.9 billion in 2018. It also boosted its net income from $16 million to about $532 million over the same period.

2. Netflix


Return: 30,359%

Netflix boasted more than 139 million subscribers in over 190 countries at the end of 2018. The on-demand video-streaming platform has drawn and kept subscribers by spending billions on the rights to TV series such as "Friends" and "The Office" and producing original shows such as "Stranger Things," "The Crown," and "13 Reasons Why."

Netflix has grown its sales from about $36 million in 2000 to $15.8 billion last year, and swung from a net loss of $57 million to net income of $1.2 billion over the same period.

1. Monster Beverage

Flickr/Mike Mozart

Return: 70,511%

Monster Beverage has vastly outperformed all other S&P 500 stocks since 2000. It sells a range of drinks under brands such as Monster Energy, NOS, and Full Throttle. Its share price has surged from below $0.10 in January 2003 to more than $63, lifting its market value from less than $1 million to almost $35 billion.

The group has grown its net sales from about $80 million in 2000 to $3.8 billion in 2018, and net income from $4 million to $993 million over the same period.

What the 5 BEST Stocks of the Past Decade Have in Common

These are the 20 best-performing stocks of the past decade, and some of them will surprise you

Deep Dive


Some lesser-known companies have special advantages in their industries

As we approach the end of 2019, it’s time not only for year-end lists, but end-of-decade lists.

U.S. stocks have had what can only be called an excellent decade. MarketWatch will feature a number of forward-looking articles building on the past decade’s action. Today we’re taking a look back.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA,  returned 165% (with dividends reinvested) and the S&P 500 Index SPX, returned 244% from the end of 2009 through Dec. 5, 2019. We’re not quite at the end of 2019, but if we were, and those figures held, the compounded annual growth rate for the Dow would be 10.2%. For the S&P 500, it would be 13.2%.

That average return for the S&P 500 measures up well when compared with the 10% average for the almost 100-year period of June 30, 1927, through Sept. 30, 2019, the longest period available using custom research.

For the past decade, we reviewed the entire S&P 500, as it is currently constituted, to see which stocks performed best. Among the 500 companies, 46 have traded in their present form for less than 10 years, so they are excluded.

Here’s a list of companies whose stocks performed the best,with reinvested dividends, from the end of 2009 through Dec. 5:

CompanyTickerFactSet industry categoryTotal return - Dec. 31, 2009, through Dec. 5, 2019Years ranked within top 10 performers
Netflix Inc. NFLX, Cable/Satellite TV 3,767% 3
MarketAxess Holdings Inc. MKTX, Investment Banks/Brokers 3,182% 2
Abiomed Inc. ABMD, Medical Specialties 2,121% 3
TransDigm Group Inc. TDG, Aerospace & Defense 2,065% 0
Broadcom Inc. AVGO, Semiconductors 1,919% 1
Align Technology Inc. ALGN, Medical Specialties 1,458% 1
United Rentals Inc. URI, Finance/Rental/Leasing 1,434% 1
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. REGN, Biotechnology 1,430% 2
Ulta Beauty Inc. ULTA, Specialty Stores 1,233% 1 Inc. AMZN, Internet Retail 1,209% 1
Extra Space Storage Inc. EXR, Real Estate Investment Trusts 1,166% 1
Constellation Brands Inc. Class A STZ, Beverages: Alcoholic 1,124% 0
Nvidia Corp. NVDA, Semiconductors 1,117% 2
Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. TTWO, Recreational Products 1,114% 1
Ross Stores Inc. ROST, Apparel/Footwear Retail 1,081% 0
Fortinet Inc. FTNT, Computer Communications 1,079% 1
Mastercard Inc. Class A MA, Finance/Rental/Leasing 1,078% 1
Charter Communications Inc. Class A CHTR, Cable/Satellite TV 1,077% 0
O'Reilly Automotive Inc. ORLY, Specialty Stores 1,060% 1
Cintas Corp. CTAS, Other Consumer Services 1,053% 0
Source: FactSet

You can click on the tickers for more about each company.

The right-most column shows the number of times each stock was among the top 10 performers over the past 10 individual years (including 2019 through Dec. 5).

Netflix NFLX,  is far ahead of the pack, with a spectacular 3,767% return. That translates to a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 44.1%. AMZN,  ranks 10th, and its 1,209% return translates to a CAGR of 29.3%. Apple AAPL,  ranks 28th, with a total return of 899% and a CAGR of 25.9%.

It’s interesting that some of the best performers for 10 years weren’t among the top 10 during any individual year. TransDigm TDG, , for example, ranks fourth, with a 2,067% return (CAGR of 36%). The company has a very important advantage in the aerospace industry — a high barrier for entry in the market for specialized replacement parts for aircraft. In April, Will Muggia of Westfield Capital Management called TransDigm “the best managed company in America.”


Here’s how the 11 sectors of the S&P 500 have performed from the end of 2009 through Dec. 5, 2019, with dividends reinvested, according to FactSet:

S&P 500 SectorTotal return - Dec. 31, 2009, through Dec. 5, 2019
Information Technology 390%
Consumer Discretionary 381%
Health Care 287%
Industrials 242%
Consumer Staples 205%
Financials 204%
Utilities 204%
Communication Services 151%
Materials 134%
Energy 31%
Source: FactSet
2019 winners — so far

Here are the 20 best-performing S&P 500 stocks for 2019 through Dec. 5:

CompanyTickerFactSet industry categoryTotal return - 2019, through Dec. 5Total return - Dec. 31, 2009, through Dec. 5, 2019Years ranked within top 10 performers
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. AMD, Semiconductors 115% 310% 3
Lam Research Corp. LRCX, Electronic Production Equipment 98% 632% 1
Xerox Holdings Corp. XRX, Computer Peripherals 96% 122% 1
Target Corp. TGT, Specialty Stores 95% 241% 1
Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. CMG, Restaurants 90% 818% 3
Coty Inc. Class A COTY, Household/Personal Care 87% N/A 1
KLA Corp. KLAC, Electronic Production Equipment 85% 629% 1
Copart Inc. CPRT, Miscellaneous Commercial Services 85% 851% 1
Arconic Inc. ARNC, Aluminum 82% N/A 1
MarketAxess Holdings Inc. MKTX, Investment Banks/Brokers 82% 3182% 2
MSCI Inc. Class A MSCI, Financial Publishing/Services 79% 770% 1
ANSYS Inc. ANSS, Packaged Software 77% 480% 0
TransDigm Group Inc. TDG, Aerospace & Defense 76% 2065% 0
Qorvo Inc. QRVO, Semiconductors 74% 445% 1
Applied Materials Inc. AMAT, Industrial Machinery 74% 393% 1
Leidos Holdings Inc. LDOS, Information Technology Services 73% 212% 0
Global Payments Inc. GPN, Data Processing Services 72% 560% 1
Fortune Brands Home & Security Inc. FBHS, Building Products 71% N/A 0
Apple Inc. AAPL, Telecommunications Equipment 71% 899% 0
Tyson Foods Inc. Class A TSN, Food: Meat/Fish/Dairy 71% 723% 0
Source: FactSet

Once again, the right-most column shows how many times each stock was among the top 10 performers over the past 10 individual years (including 2019) through Dec. 5.

Don’t miss:These numbers will tell you if your tech stock is a plodding dinosaur or a speedy raptor

Create an email alert for Philip van Doorn’s Deep Dive columns here.

No results found


2000 since best stocks performing

The 50 Best Stocks of All Time

A finance professor made a startling discovery about the stock market: Over a 90-year span, 96% of all stocks collectively performed no better than risk-free 1-month Treasury bills. After analyzing the lifetime returns of 25,967 common stocks, Hendrik Bessembinder determined that just 1,092 of those stocks -- or about 4% of the total -- generated all of the $34.8 trillion in wealth created for shareholders by the stock market between July 1926 and December 2016. Even more striking, a mere 50 stocks accounted for well over one-third (39.3%) of that amount.

But before we get to our profiles of the 50 best-performing stocks of all time, many of which are (or were) components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, a word of caution. Accurately identifying the precious few “home run” stocks amid the many thousands of underachieving names is extremely difficult. It might be impossible. Your portfolio is more likely to suffer because you guessed wrong and failed to invest in the top long-term winners, says Bessembinder of Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business.

A better alternative to trying to find a needle in a haystack? To paraphrase Jack Bogle, the Vanguard founder and pioneer of index investing: Just buy the haystack. “The results reinforce the importance of diversification,” says Bessembinder, “and low-cost index funds are an excellent way to diversify broadly.”

Take a look at the 50 best stocks since 1926.

The 50 stocks are listed in reverse order of the dollar amount of lifetime wealth creation, which includes reinvested dividends. Current stock data as of Jan. 12, 2018. Analysts' ratings provided by Zacks. For more details on Bessembinder's study methodology and findings, download a copy of his paper, "Do Stocks Outperform Treasury Bills?"

1 of 50

50. Gilead Sciences

MIAMI - JULY 11:A bottle of AIDS medication called Viread is shown July 11, 2002 in Miami, Florida. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers have warned that HIV infection rates
  • Ticker symbol:GILD
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $118.6 billion
  • Annualized return (February 1992-December 2016): 21.0%
  • Current share price: $79.02
  • Current dividend yield: 2.6%
  • Current analyst ratings: 10 strong buy, 1 buy, 10 hold, 0 sell, 0 strong sell

Gilead Sciences made its name developing retroviral drugs to fight HIV, influenza and Hepatitis B and C, and now it's making acquisitions in order to find more bestsellers. Founded three decades ago when the biotechnology sector was still in its infancy, Gilead -- like many biotech stocks -- has given investors a dramatic ride. Shares didn't do much for the first decade or so after the company went public in 1992 until Gilead hit the mark with retroviral drugs, at which point the stock took off. The downside? Shares peaked in 2015 and have lost about a third of their value since. Today’s investors are banking on investments in oncology drugs and splashy acquisitions such as the $11.9 billion deal for Kite Pharma to make up for slowing sales of its retroviral hits.

2 of 50

49. Sears Roebuck & Co.

NILES, IL - NOVEMBER 17:A Sears shopping cart is seen outside its store November 17, 2004 in Niles, Illinois. Kmart announced today that it is acquiring Sears in an $11 billion deal.(Photo by
  • Ticker symbol: N/A
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $120.6 billion
  • Annualized return (July 1926-March 2005): 10.9%
  • Current share price: N/A
  • Current dividend yield: N/A
  • Current analyst ratings: N/A

The Sears we know today is a shell of the 19th and 20th century retail powerhouse that was the Amazon of its time. Founded in 1886 as a mail-order catalog, the original Sears Roebuck allowed rural consumers to buy the same products available to their big-city brethren. The company went public in 1906 and not long afterward began opening a sprawling network of stores. In 1924, the stock was added to the Dow Jones industrial average. Sears thrived for decades, but by the 1990s it had been overtaken by the likes of Walmart (WMT) and Target (TGT). The stock was dropped from the Dow in 1999. Not long after, billionaire hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert purchased Kmart out of bankruptcy and then used it to acquire Sears. The merger, which closed in 2005, marked the end of the original Sears Roebuck & Co. and resulted in the new Sears Holdings (SHLD), a stock that has been in sharp decline for a decade running.

3 of 50

48. Union Pacific

Seattle, Washington - August 29, 2009: Two Union Pacific boxcars sit at a switching yard in Seattle, waiting to be attached to a train and sent somewhere in North America
  • Ticker symbol:UNP
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $122.4 billion
  • Annualized return (August 1969-December 2016): 13.6%
  • Current share price: $141.17
  • Current dividend yield: 1.9%
  • Current analyst ratings: 8 strong buy, 0 buy, 9 hold, 0 sell, 0 strong sell

Union Pacific runs a railroad network that sprawls across 23 states in the West and Midwest, making it one of the largest transport companies in the world. Its lineage goes back to 1862's Union Pacific Railroad, which helped build the first transcontinental railroad. Union Pacific Railroad was an original component of the Dow Jones transportation average, created in 1884. The rail company has evolved over the past century and a half due to a series of mergers with or acquisitions of other railroads. The modern-era Union Pacific was formed in 1969 to manage what had become a spaghetti-like mix of routes. Warren Buffett once held a 2% stake in Union Pacific, but sold it when Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) bought competitor BNSF in 2009. Buffett has always had an affinity for railroads because he believes they form the backbone of the U.S. economy. He likes to say that a bet on railroads is a bet on America.

4 of 50

47. United Technologies

Indianapolis, US - March 29, 2016: United Technologies Factory. UTC Provides a Broad Range of High-Technology Products I
  • Ticker symbol:UTX
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $126.2 billion
  • Annualized return (May 1929-December 2016): 9.9%
  • Current share price: $136.58
  • Current dividend yield: 2.1%
  • Current analyst ratings: 6 strong buy, 1 buy, 4 hold, 0 sell, 1 strong sell

United Technologies is an industrial conglomerate that makes a huge range of products. Aircraft engines, air conditioners, elevators and technology for the aviation industry are just some of the goods cranked out by its four divisions. The multinational company can trace its corporate roots to 1929, when it was part of United Aircraft and Transport, a Dow component starting in 1930. It became United Aircraft due to a 1934 antitrust breakup. The corporate name changed to United Technologies in 1975 to reflect the diversification of its business beyond aerospace. Over the years the company acquired Carrier Refrigeration and Otis Elevators, among other diverse businesses, though its ownership of Pratt & Whitney and UTC Aerospace Systems ensures that it remains an important defense contractor. The stock is still a Dow component to this day.

5 of 50

46. HP Inc.

<<enter caption here>> on June 1, 2010 in San Francisco, California.
  • Ticker symbol:HPQ
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $129.3 billion
  • Annualized return (April 1961-December 2016): 9.9%
  • Current share price: $22.92
  • Current dividend yield: 2.5%
  • Current analyst ratings: 6 strong buy, 2 buy, 5 hold, 0 sell, 0 strong sell

The original Hewlett-Packard, started in 1939, was the granddaddy of Silicon Valley technology firms. The company’s fortunes really took off as home PCs and printers gained in popularity. The stock was added to the Dow in 1997. Two years later the company spun off Agilent Technologies (A) to house products that didn't relate to computers, such as scientific instruments and semiconductors. The beginning of the end for the original Hewlett-Packard started with the ill-fated 2001 acquisition of Compaq to form the world's largest maker of PCs. Soon after, the PC market became saturated. Attempts to restart growth with smartphones and tablets were unsuccessful, losses mounted, and management was forced to lay off tens of thousands of employees. The stock was dropped from the Dow in 2013, and Hewlett-Packard split into two companies, HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), in 2015. HP Inc. carries on the legacy of the original stock, which was first listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1961.

6 of 50

45. Visa

  • Ticker symbol:V
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $129.8 billion
  • Annualized return (April 2008-December 2016): 21.1%
  • Current share price: $120.09
  • Current dividend yield: 0.7%
  • Current analyst ratings: 23 strong buy, 1 buy, 1 hold, 0 sell, 0 strong sell

Visa wasn’t even known as Visa when the company got its start in 1958 after Bank of America (BAC) launched its BankAmericard credit card program. But as the card gained popularity abroad, the name was changed in 1976 to Visa because it was easier to pronounce. Today, Visa is the world's largest payments processor outside of China. Despite its short life as a publicly traded company and the ill timing of its IPO – Visa went public in March 2008 during the global financial crisis – the stock has already created nearly $130 billion in wealth for shareholders. Interestingly, shares in the company held up relatively well during the crash of 2007-2009 and bounced back sharply as the market started to recover. Including dividends, Visa's stock has returned 928% since the current bull market began in March 2009. That bests the S&P 500's gains by more than 530 percentage points. Visa’s dividend yield won't wow diehard income investors, but the company has raised its payout every year for eight straight years.

7 of 50

44. Cisco Systems

<<enter caption here>> on August 10, 2011 in San Jose, California.
  • Ticker symbol:CSCO
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $131.3 billion
  • Annualized return (March 1990-December 2016): 25.4%
  • Current share price: $40.87
  • Current dividend yield: 2.9%
  • Current analyst ratings: 12 strong buy, 3 buy, 4 hold, 0 sell, 0 strong sell

Cisco Systems, founded in 1984 and a publicly traded company since 1990, was one of the premier tech stocks of the dot-com boom. It suffered along with much of the technology sector when the bubble burst in 2000, but it was no Demand for the routers, switches and modems manufactured by Cisco that form the backbone of the Internet helped the company recover quickly. In 2009, Cisco was added to the Dow as stocks were finally emerging from the brutal bear market precipitated by the housing crisis and the global financial meltdown. That said, Cisco shares have been something of a disappointment since the current bull market began. True, shares in Cisco are up 266% since the market bottom of March 2009, including dividends, but the Nasdaq-100 index has gained 600% over the same span. Today, the company is reconfiguring itself to take advantage of the growth of cloud-based computing and the Internet of Things.

8 of 50

43. Schlumberger

oil rig
  • Ticker symbol:SLB
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $134.2 billion
  • Annualized return (July 1926-December 2016): 7.0%
  • Current share price: $77.97
  • Current dividend yield: 2.6%
  • Current analyst ratings: 13 strong buy, 2 buy, 10 hold, 0 sell, 0 strong sell

Schlumberger is the world's largest oil-field services company. As such, it helps firms that own rights to oil fields to actually find the oil and drill the wells, among other services. The company was founded in 1926 by two brothers from France, and a steady stream of technological innovations and acquisitions have contributed to its rapid growth over the decades. Schlumberger's history largely parallels the spread of the combustion engine and the rise of oil as the king commodity, which helps explain its elite level of wealth creation for shareholders. Lower oil prices have weighed on shares over the past three years -- SLB is up less than 2% against a 40% rise in the S&P 500 -- but oil is nothing if not cyclical. Don't be surprised if this long-time wealth creator bounces back sooner rather than later.

9 of 50

42. Amgen


Ticker symbol: AMGN

  • Lifetime wealth creation: $137.9 billion
  • Annualized return (July 1983-December 2016): 21.0%
  • Current share price: $185.04
  • Current dividend yield: 2.9%
  • Current analyst ratings: 6 strong buy, 1 buy, 14 hold, 0 sell, 0 strong sell

The biotech industry has long held allure for investors looking for outsized returns, and Amgen is part of the reason why. The world's largest biopharmaceutical company has created an eye-popping level of wealth for shareholders in its relatively short life. (It was founded in 1980 and went public three years later.) Amgen has delivered such returns by following the pharmaceutical industry playbook of both developing hit drugs on its own and acquiring other companies and their blockbusters. Current best-sellers include Neulasta, which helps prevent infections in chemotherapy patients, and Enbrel, which is primarily used to treat autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. On the M&A front, Amgen has coupled with almost 20 firms since 1994. Shares in the company have more than doubled over the past five years compared with a gain of 89% for the broader market.

10 of 50

41. Boeing

"Oshkosh, WI, USA - July 29, 2011:Brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner in factory paint scheme taking off during EAA Airventure 2011."
  • Ticker symbol:BA
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $139.4 billion
  • Annualized return (October 1934-December 2016): 15.6%
  • Current share price: $336.21
  • Current dividend yield: 2%
  • Current analyst ratings: 9 strong buy, 0 buy, 7 hold, 0 sell, 0 strong sell

Boeing, a Dow component since 1987, forms half of the duopoly for large commercial airliners. Only Europe's Airbus competes with it on the same level in making big jets. But Boeing is much more than just commercial aviation. The company is a major defense contractor, manufacturing everything from rockets to satellites to military tilt-rotor aircraft like the Osprey. Boeing's history reaches back a century, but it really came into its own in the post-World War II period with the explosive growth of commercial aviation. Boeing’s shares have been a long-time market-beater, but they've taken off over the past year. Although 2017 returns aren’t included in Bessembinder’s study, the stock price nearly doubled last year -- a remarkable one-year return for such an established blue-chip stock.

11 of 50

40. Warner-Lambert

"Aberdeen, Scotland - April 17, 2012: Boxes of Atorvastatin (Lipitor) tablets.Atorvastatin is a member of the drug class known as statins, used for lowering blood cholesterol levels."
  • Ticker symbol: N/A
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $142.5 billion
  • Annualized return (July 1951-June 2000): 19.4%
  • Current share price: N/A
  • Current dividend yield: N/A
  • Current analyst ratings: N/A

Warner-Lambert was acquired by Pfizer (PFE) some 17 years ago, but during its half century as an independent publicly traded company, its stock delivered a remarkable performance. Tracing its roots back to the mid-1800s, Warner-Lambert was no stranger to making plenty of big acquisitions of its own over the years. It bought everything from Trident gum to Schick razors, but perhaps its biggest M&A win came with the purchase of Parke-Davis, once the world’s largest drug maker and the discoverer of Lipitor. But while Lipitor represented Warner-Lambert’s pinnacle of success, it also ultimately led to its demise as a standalone company. Management initially partnered with Pfizer to market the cholesterol-lowering drug, but Lipitor proved so popular that Pfizer acquired Warner-Lambert outright in 2000. It proved to be a good decision. Lipitor went on to become the best-selling prescription drug of all time.

12 of 50

39. ConocoPhillips

Longmont, Colorado, USA - November 20, 2012: The ConocoPhillips gas station near the I-25 Interstate. ConocoPhillips is a multinational energy company with revenues of over $250 billion.
  • Ticker symbol:COP
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $143.8 billion
  • Annualized return (July 1926-December 2016): 10.2%
  • Current share price: $60.05
  • Current dividend yield: 1.8%
  • Current analyst ratings: 12 strong buy, 1 buy, 3 hold, 0 sell, 0 strong sell

The world's largest independent oil exploration and production company was formed by the 2002 merger of Conoco and Phillips Petroleum, both of which had long and successful records in the petroleum industry. Conoco, once owned by DuPont, was founded in 1875, and the Phillips story begins in 1917. ConocoPhillips spun off its transportation and refining business in 2012 as Phillips 66 (PSX) to focus solely on exploration, development and production. That's what differentiates it today from major integrated energy companies such as ExxonMobil (XOM), which also transport and refine oil and natural gas. (Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway holds a 16% stake in Phillips 66.) ConocoPhillips is just one of a number of energy companies that lays claim to greatness when it comes to the lifetime wealth creation of its shares.

13 of 50

38. Comcast

PHILADELPHIA DECEMBER 3: The Comcast Center, which is Comcast Corporate headquarters, is seen December 3, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Comcast Corp. announced December 3, that it will
  • Ticker symbol:CMCSA
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $147.0 billion
  • Annualized return (December 2002-December 2016): 12.4%
  • Current share price: $42.44
  • Current dividend yield: 1.5%
  • Current analyst ratings: 20 strong buy, 1 buy, 1 hold, 0 sell, 0 strong sell

As one of the nation's largest cable TV companies and Internet service providers, Comcast has taken more than its fair share of lumps. After all, everyone hates the cable company, right? Everyone, perhaps, except shareholders. The telecommunications giant began in 1963 as a small cable operator in Tupelo, Miss. The company originally went public in 1972. However, new Comcast stock was issued in 2002 following the merger with AT&T Broadband, so the stunning lifetime returns calculated by Bessembinder were generated over just 14 years. Comcast didn’t stop with AT&T Broadband. Notably, it bought NBCUniversal in 2011 and DreamWorks Animation in 2016, fueling Comcast’s strategy of becoming a producer of premier films and programming. Comcast's stock is up 657% on a price basis since the bull market began in March 2009 compared with a gain of 312% for the S&P 500.

14 of 50

37. Bristol-Myers Squibb

A Bristol-Myers Squibb sign
  • Ticker symbol:BMY
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $161.9 billion
  • Annualized return (August 1929-December 2016): 13.2%
  • Current share price: $62.81
  • Current dividend yield: 2.6%
  • Current analyst ratings: 7 strong buy, 0 buy, 8 hold, 0 sell, 1 strong sell

Add another pharmaceutical maker to the list of the greatest creators of stock market wealth for investors over the 90-year span. The modern-day Bristol-Myers Squibb resulted from the 1989 merger of Bristol-Myers and Squibb, but even before joining forces the two separate companies boasted distinguished business lineages that stretch back into the 19th century. A long track record of successful acquisitions has kept the pipeline primed with big-name drugs over the years. Among the better-known names today are Coumadin, a blood thinner, and Glucophage, for Type 2 diabetes. Shares tumbled in 2016 after one of the company’s key cancer drugs failed a clinical study, but Bristol-Myers Squibb stock rebounded last year.

15 of 50

36. Texaco

Cross Hands, UK - September 10, 2014: Forecourt of Texaco petrol station at night. The cashier is visible through teh window
  • Ticker symbol: N/A
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $164.3 billion
  • Annualized return (July 1926-October 2001): 11.6%
  • Current share price: N/A
  • Current dividend yield: N/A
  • Current analyst ratings: N/A

Texaco, originally known as The Texas Co., was a staple of the Dow Jones industrial average throughout most of the 20th century. It was first added to the Dow in 1916, when the average expanded to 20 companies from 12. In 1959, its name officially changed to Texaco. The company remained a Dow component until 1997. Not long after, in 2001, Texaco was acquired by Chevron (CVX). As part of the merger, Texaco service stations were sold to Shell, now part of oil major Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A). It was an anticlimactic end for one of the last independent oil companies. Texaco was founded in 1902 and quickly expanded overseas. By the late 1950s it was the most popular brand of gasoline and one of the earliest sponsors of the nascent television industry. Such was its success that it managed to become a top-50 wealth creator despite ending its run as a standalone company 16 years ago.

16 of 50

35. Verizon Communications

Verizon store
  • Ticker symbol:VZ
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $165.1 billion
  • Annualized return (March 1984-December 2016): 11.2%
  • Current share price: $51.86
  • Current dividend yield: 4.6%
  • Current analyst ratings: 6 strong buy, 1 buy, 14 hold, 0 sell, 0 strong sell

Verizon has been a Dow stock since 2004, and it’s currently the sole representative of the telecommunications industry. Rival AT&T (T) was dropped from the industrial average in 2015 to make room for Apple (AAPL). Verizon came out of the 1980’s federal break-up of the old AT&T on antitrust grounds. The company was initially known as Bell Atlantic. The name changed to Verizon as part of the 2000 merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE. Today, Verizon is the largest wireless provider in the U.S., and it has expanded aggressively into the content arena with the acquisitions of AOL and Yahoo. Telecom stocks are known more for income than growth, and Verizon has largely stuck to that script. The share price for the most part has held steady over the past five years, but Verizon’s annual dividend has increased every year since 2006. It’s a testament to the ability of dividends to create wealth for shareholders over time.

17 of 50

34. Amoco

  • Ticker symbol: N/A
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $168.0 billion
  • Annualized return (September 1934-December 1998): 13.1%
  • Current share price: N/A
  • Current dividend yield: N/A
  • Current analyst ratings: N/A

Amoco boasts a prestigious pedigree, tracing its roots back to John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil empire of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In its early days, the company was known as Standard Oil of Indiana. The name eventually changed to Amoco after regulators broke up Rockefeller's Standard Oil Trust in 1911. Amoco opened its first service station in 1912 and later moved into oil and gas exploration. When U.K. oil giant BP (BP) acquired Amoco in 1998, the combined companies became the largest producer of oil and natural gas in the U.S. Soon after, Amoco’s ubiquitous service stations were rebranded BP. Interestingly, BP in late 2017 announced plans to reintroduce Amoco service stations in the U.S. because American drivers still connect to the Amoco brand.

18 of 50

33. AT&T Inc.

Indianapolis, US - March 29, 2016: AT&T Indiana Headquarters. AT&T Inc. is an American Telecommunications Corporation VI
  • Ticker symbol:T
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $169.5 billion
  • Annualized return (March 1984-December 2016): 11.9%
  • Current share price: $36.90
  • Current dividend yield: 5.5%
  • Current analyst ratings: 6 strong buy, 1 buy, 11 hold, 0 sell, 0 strong sell

AT&T has a long and winding corporate history that started with Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone in 1879. However, for the purposes of Bessembinder’s study, the lifetime wealth creation above represents the performance of shares since 1984. That’s the year AT&T was broken up into seven new regional phone companies, known as Baby Bells, with the original AT&T retaining its long-distance business. Many years and many mergers later, one of those Baby Bells, SBC Communications (formerly Southwestern Bell), acquired the original AT&T in 2005 and adopted the AT&T name. Today, the new AT&T (formerly SBC) remains a big dividend payer and a major player in wireless, Internet and satellite-TV services, with more than $163 billion in annual revenue. The original AT&T was dropped from the Dow in 2004. However, because SBC had been a Dow component since 1999, the new AT&T lived on as a Dow component until 2015, when it was removed from the industrial average to make room for Apple (AAPL).

19 of 50

32. UnitedHealth Group

UnitedHealth sign in front of a building.
  • Ticker symbol:UNH
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $172.2 billion
  • Annualized return (November 1984-December 2016): 24.8%
  • Current share price: $228.64
  • Current dividend yield: 1.3%
  • Current analyst ratings: 16 strong buy, 1 buy, 0 hold, 0 sell, 1 strong sell

A string of acquisitions has helped make UnitedHealth Group one of the largest health insurance companies in the world. The company was incorporated under the UnitedHealthcare name in 1977 and went public in 1984. Since then, it hasn't looked back. Along the way it beefed up its businesses by buying or merging with MetraHealth, HealthWise of America and AmeriChoice, among many others. The company's OptumRx subsidiary is one of the largest pharmacy benefits managers in the U.S. It has also been a very good stock for long-term investors. Shares are up 326% over the past five years vs. just 89% for the S&P 500. UnitedHealth Group was added to the Dow in 2012, replacing Kraft Foods.

20 of 50

31. McDonald's

A McDonald's building
  • Ticker symbol:MCD
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $178.3 billion
  • Annualized return (August 1966-December 2016): 17.9%
  • Current share price: $173.57
  • Current dividend yield: 2.3%
  • Current analyst ratings: 20 strong buy, 1 buy, 4 hold, 0 sell, 0 strong sell

McDonald's needs no introduction. The world’s biggest burger chain has been a stock market and dietary staple for decades. That's partly because management has a knack for changing with the times. Shares performed poorly in the early 2000s, for example, around the time the low-carb Atkins diet surged in popularity. McDonald's responded by adding more healthy fare to its menu and the stock recovered. To this day, McDonald's continues to focus on healthier items to compete with new chains boasting fresher offerings, but it was the launch of all-day breakfast in 2015 that has given the Golden Arches its latest jolt of life. Over the last three years, shares are up 90% vs. a gain of 40% for the S&P 500. History suggests it's never wise to count out McDonald’s, a public company since 1965 and a Dow component since 1985. Its dividend dates back to 1976 and has gone up every year since.

21 of 50

30. Pfizer

Lipitor pills
  • Ticker symbol:PFE
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $179.9 billion
  • Annualized return (February 1944-December 2016): 15.0%
  • Current share price: $36.54
  • Current dividend yield: 3.7%
  • Current analyst ratings: 7 strong buy, 1 buy, 3 hold, 0 sell, 1 strong sell

It should come as no surprise that many of the top-performing stocks since 1926 are components of the Dow, which dates back to 1896. The popular benchmark is made up of 30 of the bluest blue-chip stocks available to investors, and components change infrequently. Pfizer, founded in 1849 and public since 1942, had to wait until 2004 before it was finally added to the industrial average. The pharmaceutical giant earned the honor in large part thanks to its history of selling blockbuster drugs. Among the best known are Lipitor (for cholesterol) and Viagra (for erectile dysfunction). Pfizer also owes its growth to its many successful acquisitions. Since 2000, it has purchased Warner-Lambert, Pharmacia and Wyeth.

22 of 50

29. Abbott Laboratories

An Abbott sign
  • Ticker symbol:ABT
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $181.2 billion
  • Annualized return (April 1937-December 2016): 13.5%
  • Current share price: $58.84
  • Current dividend yield: 1.9%
  • Current analyst ratings: 16 strong buy, 2 buy, 3 hold, 0 sell, 0 strong sell

Joining the likes of Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb on this list of top-performing stocks is fellow drug maker Abbott Labs. The company has a long and eventful history that dates to its founding in 1888. Abbott first paid a dividend in 1924, and it has raised its payout annual for the last 46 years in a row. The company went public in 1929. Its many decades as a dividend-paying public company have certainly attributed to the extraordinary lifetime returns of its stock. A new era began for Abbott in 2013, when it spun off AbbVie (ABBV) as a standalone maker of branded drugs and therapies. Abbott now focuses on generic drugs, medical devices, nutrition and diagnostic products. Since the spinoff, however, Abbott’s stock has trailed the performance of AbbVie by a wide margin.

23 of 50

28. Facebook

A person looks at the Facebook app on their phone
  • Ticker symbol:FB
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $181.2 billion
  • Annualized return (June 2012-December 2016): 34.5%
  • Current share price: $179.37
  • Current dividend yield: N/A
  • Current analyst ratings: 24 strong buy, 3 buy, 0 hold, 0 sell, 0 strong sell

Facebook got off to a rocky start when it went public in May 2012 at $38 a share. Technical glitches marred the initial public offering, and the stock traded below the IPO price for more than a year. Since then, however, it's been nothing but blue skies. Facebook’s share price has gained 370% in its five-plus years as a publicly traded company. The S&P 500 is up 115% on a price basis over the same time frame. The relentless growth of digital advertising bodes well for further gains. As the world’s most popular social media network, advertisers are happy to pay Facebook to reach all those eyeballs. Just how explosive has Facebook's rise been? Consider this: In just four and a half years it has created the same amount of wealth for shareholders that it took Abbott Labs nearly 80 years to create.

24 of 50

27. Walt Disney & Co.

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 4:Fireworks explode over The Sleeping Beauty Castle as part of the Disney Premiere of "Remember...Dreams Come True" the biggest firework display in Disneylands history durin
  • Ticker symbol:DIS
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $192.0 billion
  • Annualized return (December 1957-December 2016): 16.5%
  • Current share price: $112.47
  • Current dividend yield: 1.5%
  • Current analyst ratings: 6 strong buy, 1 buy, 8 hold, 0 sell, 1 strong sell

Disney began as a cartoon studio in 1923, and Mickey Mouse appeared in his first starring role five years later. The company issued stock for the first time in 1940. In the decades since, Walt Disney expanded into live-action films, theme parks, toys and television. In the last 20 years alone Disney has gobbled up ABC, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Entertainment and Lucasfilm (of “Star Wars” fame). The stock has nearly tripled in value over the last 10 years, but shares face increasing pressure as viewers cut the cable cord and turn to other forms of entertainment. Disney owns cable properties including ESPN and the Disney Channel.  But Disney, a Dow component since 1991, has adapted to a changing media landscape before and recently inked a deal to acquire much of 21st Century Fox (FOXA). So don’t be too quick to write off this longtime great stock.

25 of 50

26. 3M

Scotch tape rolls
  • Ticker symbol:MMM
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $200.4 billion
  • Annualized return (February 1946-December 2016): 13.7%
  • Current share price: $244.47
  • Current dividend yield: 1.9%
  • Current analyst ratings: 4 strong buy, 0 buy, 6 hold, 0 sell, 2 strong sell

Perhaps best known for Scotch tape and Post-It notes, it’s easy to forget that one of the three M’s in 3M stands for mining. (The other two M’s stand for Minnesota and manufacturing, as in Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co.) The company began in 1902 as a small-time outfit in search of the mineral corundum. The mining venture didn’t pan out, but the failure did force the company to innovate and branch out. It hasn’t stopped since. Today, 3M makes 60,000 products, with one-third of sales coming from products invented in the last five years. The company’s legacy of success earned it a spot in the Dow in 1976. Shareholders have happily gone along for the ride. 3M's dividend dates back a century and has increased annually for 59 consecutive years.

26 of 50

25. Mobil Corp.

Mobil sign
  • Ticker symbol: N/A
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $202.5 billion
  • Annualized return (January 1927-November 1999): 11.5%
  • Current share price: N/A
  • Current dividend yield: N/A
  • Current analyst ratings: N/A

For the purposes of Bessembinder’s study, returns for the original Mobil Corp. stopped in 1999, when Mobil merged with Exxon to form today’s energy powerhouse ExxonMobil (XOM). That fact makes the lifetime performance of Mobil stock (original ticker symbol “MOB”) all the more impressive considering it missed out on the current bull market, one of the longest in U.S. history. Even prior to the merger, Mobil was among the largest oil companies in the nation, tracing its lineage back to Standard Oil of New York. As for the wisdom of its deal with Exxon almost two decade ago, keep reading to learn where ExxonMobil lands among the 50 greatest stocks since 1926.

27 of 50

24. Oracle Corp.

Oracle sign
  • Ticker symbol:ORCL
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $214.2 billion
  • Annualized return (April 1986-December 2016): 23.4%
  • Current share price: $49.51
  • Current dividend yield: 1.6%
  • Current analyst ratings: 17 strong buy, 1 buy, 8 hold, 0 sell, 0 strong sell

Oracle is one of several technology stocks to crack the top 50, a notable feat considering most Big Tech companies are relatively young compared to the rest of the names on this list. Founded in 1977 and publicly traded since 1986, Oracle got its start as a provider of database management software. As much as any high-tech company of the era, it rode the late-1990s tech bubble to lofty heights -- and then crashed. It’s been a long, slow recovery ever since, driven by a wide portfolio of software aimed at corporate customers. Where Oracle goes from here is less clear. Larry Ellison is still with the company after 40 years, though now in the role of chief technology officer. Management, led by co-CEOs Mark Hurd and Safra Catz, is in the midst of a major transformation, trying to reinvent the company and embrace the rush to cloud-based services.

28 of 50

23. Pepsico

SAN RAFAEL, CA - JULY 11:Bottles of Pepsi soda are displayed on a shelf at Santa Venetia Market on July 11, 2017 in San Rafael, California. PepsiCo reported a better-than-expected second quar
  • Ticker symbol:PEP
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $224.6 billion
  • Annualized return (July 1926-December 2016): 12.6%
  • Current share price: $117.38
  • Current dividend yield: 2.8%
  • Current analyst ratings: 7 strong buy, 1 buy, 5 hold, 0 sell, 0 strong sell

Pepsi, the cola drink, was created in the late 19th century by a North Carolina pharmacist. Pepsi, the modern-day company, was created in 1965 by the merger of Pepsi-Cola and Frito-Lay to form PepsiCo. (Incidentally, Pepsi stock dates back to 1919 via a predecessor company, candy maker Loft Inc., which Pepsi merged with in 1941.) The natural combination of carbonated beverages and salty snacks proved to be a winner for decades, with PepsiCo increasing its dividend every year for 46 straight years. Today, however, PepsiCo is working against a slide in soda sales. Like the rest of the industry, it has responded by expanding its offerings of non-carbonated beverages. It sells Gatorade sports drinks, Tropicana juices and Aquafina water, among other brands. One advantage Pepsi has over rival Coca-Cola (KO) is the Frito-Lay side of the business, as demand for salty snacks remains solid.

29 of 50

22. Home Depot

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 26:Customers shop at a Home Depot store on July 26, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. A shortage of single-family homes for sale in the U.S. is driving up home prices and causing
  • Ticker symbol:HD
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $230.7 billion
  • Annualized return (October 1981-December 2016): 27.6%
  • Current share price: $196.42
  • Current dividend yield: 1.8%
  • Current analyst ratings: 16 strong buy, 3 buy, 5 hold, 0 sell, 0 strong sell

Home Depot has been a publicly traded company since 1981. It was included in the S&P 500 index in 1988 and added to the Dow in 1999. Yet, shares in the nation's largest home-improvement chain have generated a big chunk of their gains just in the last six years. The collapse of the housing market that precipitated the Great Recession of the late 2000s was a painful period for Home Depot. It's resurgence since on the back of low mortgage rates – coupled with a shortage of new housing, which has prompted homeowners to stay put and renovate – has remade its fortunes of late. Shares in Home Depot are up 350% in the last five years alone. After notching an all-time high in early 2018, it remains to be seen how much upside is left, at least in the short term.

30 of 50

21. JPMorgan Chase

  • Ticker symbol:JPM
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $238.1 billion
  • Annualized return (April 1969-December 2016): 10%
  • Current share price: $112.67
  • Current dividend yield: 2%
  • Current analyst ratings: 8 strong buy, 0 buy, 11 hold, 0 sell, 0 strong sell

JPMorgan Chase traces its roots all the way back to 1799, when The Manhattan Company was chartered to supply clean water to New York City. It’s come a long way since. Today’s JPMorgan Chase is a sprawling multinational financial powerhouse that ranks as the nation's largest bank by assets. As a result of decades’ worth of mergers and acquisitions, it boasts more than 1,200 predecessor institutions including Chase Manhattan Bank, Bank One, Manufacturers Hanover Trust, Chemical Bank and Bear Stearns, just to name a few. Then known as J.P. Morgan & Co., the stock was added to the Dow in 1991 to reflect not only its place of prominence in the financial industry but its prominence in the American business landscape. The company name changed to JPMorgan Chase in 2000 after J.P. Morgan & Co. merged with Chase Manhattan.

31 of 50

20. Intel

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 26: In this handout photo provided by Intel, Tom Kilroy, vice president of Intel?s Digital Enterprise Group, displays Intel's new Dual-Core Xeon Processor 5100 on Jun
  • Ticker symbol:INTC
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $259.3 billion
  • Annualized return (January 1973-December 2016): 17.7%
  • Current share price: $43.24
  • Current dividend yield: 2.5%
  • Current analyst ratings: 14 strong buy, 2 buy, 6 hold, 1 sell, 2 strong sell

Intel, founded in 1968, is an old-timer among technology companies, and the semiconductor manufacturer’s longevity has paid off handsomely for shareholders. Its early start positioned the company to run away with the market for the chips that serve as a computer’s brain. Intel had close to 100% market share in central processing units for personal computers at one point. It still has 80% today. But PC sales are like a slowly melting iceberg. Softening the blow, Intel remains the biggest player in making CPUs for back-end servers, which are very much in demand in order to power the rapid shift to cloud-based computing. What's troubling is that Intel missed opportunities to make chips for mobile devices, which is where much of future growth lies. The tech stock was added to the Dow in 1999, near the height of the dot-com boom.

32 of 50

19. Wells Fargo & Co.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 14:A sign is posted at a Wells Fargo Bank branch office on July 14, 2017 in San Francisco, California. San Francisco based Wells Fargo & Co. reported better-than-expe
  • Ticker symbol:WFC
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $261.3 billion
  • Annualized return (January 1963-December 2016): 13.3%
  • Current share price: $62.55
  • Current dividend yield: 2.5%
  • Current analyst ratings: 10 strong buy, 1 buy, 11 hold, 0 sell, 3 strong sell

Wells Fargo has been in the banking business for a long time – make that a very long time. The company was founded in 1852, and even today its name is synonymous with the iconic six-horse stagecoach of the 19th century American West. Warren Buffett's history with Wells Fargo goes way back, too. His holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, first started buying shares of the bank in 1989. Today, Berkshire is Wells Fargo's largest shareholder with a nearly 10% stake worth more than $29 billion. Like most of Buffett’s moves, this investment has worked out pretty well over the long haul. Wells Fargo's stock crashed hard during last decade’s financial crisis but has since gone on to rise six-fold despite a fake-accounts scandal that cost the CEO his job.

33 of 50

18. Merck

Merck sign
  • Ticker symbol:MRK
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $286.7 billion
  • Annualized return (June 1946-December 2016): 13.8%
  • Current share price: $58.66
  • Current dividend yield: 3.3%
  • Current analyst ratings: 8 strong buy, 0 buy, 7 hold, 0 sell, 0 strong sell

Merck is the top pure-play drug maker on this list with lifetime wealth creation between 1946 and 2016 totaling well over a quarter-trillion dollars. This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering Merck’s corporate pedigree. The company was established in 1891, and the stock has been a component of the Dow since 1979. The Merck family’s involvement in the pharmaceutical business dates back to 17th century Germany. The 21st century has been less kind, however. The stock price, adjusted for splits and dividends, remains well below its 2000 peak near $95 a share. In the past 17 years, Merck has experienced plenty of ups and downs, from the Vioxx recall in 2004 to its megamerger with Schering-Plough in 2009. With nearly $40 billion in annual sales, Merck remains a formidable player in the global drug business. Whether the stock can regain its former glory remains to be seen.

34 of 50

17. AT&T Corp.

1960s style antique black telephone isolated on white
  • Ticker symbol: N/A
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $297.2 billion
  • Annualized return (July 1926-November 2005): 7.8%
  • Current share price: N/A
  • Current dividend yield: N/A
  • Current analyst ratings: N/A

Confused by AT&T’s second appearance on this list? We sympathize. For the purposes of Bessembinder’s study, though, AT&T Corp. shares represent the original stock that dates back more than a century and that ceased to exist once SBC Communications (formerly Southwestern Bell) acquired AT&T and adopted the AT&T name in 2005. The new AT&T Inc. stock that exists today is, in effect, a legacy of the old SBC stock that was born from the 1984 breakup of the original AT&T. Got it? The original AT&T Corp. was a classic example of a widows-and-orphans stock. It paid generous dividends and carried low risk; in other words, it was an ideal investment for those who needed income and could ill afford to lose principal. AT&T Corp. shares served widows, orphans and many others admirably for generations. Then known as the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, the stock first joined the Dow in 1916. It was dropped from the industrial average in 1928, added back in 1939, and dropped again in 2004. Adding to the confusion, the new AT&T Inc. shares graced the Dow from 2005 until 2015 because SBC (renamed AT&T after the 2005 merger, remember?) had been a Dow component since 1999.

35 of 50

16. DuPont

DuPont sign
  • Ticker symbol: N/A
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $308.0 billion
  • Annualized return (July 1926-December 2016): 10.6%
  • Current share price: N/A
  • Current dividend yield: N/A
  • Current analyst ratings: N/A

The DuPont that created more than $300 billion in wealth for its shareholders since 1926 isn't the same company that exists today. That’s because DuPont merged with Dow Chemical in August 2017 to form a new mega-company called DowDuPont (DWDP). DuPont’s familiar "DD" ticker symbol was retired upon completion of the merger. It's been a long road to get to this point. The chemicals giant got its start more than 200 years ago when E.I. du Pont bought land in Delaware to set up powder mills. As the company grew and gained prominence, it was briefly added to Dow Jones industrial average in 1924 but dropped a year later. DuPont was added back to the Dow in 1935, where it remained for more than 80 years. The newly formed DowDuPont takes the place of the old DuPont in the Dow.

36 of 50

15. Coca-Cola

  • Ticker symbol:KO
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $326.1 billion
  • Annualized return (July 1926-December 2016): 13.1%
  • Current share price: $46.15
  • Current dividend yield: 3.2%
  • Current analyst ratings: 6 strong buy, 0 buy, 9 hold, 0 sell, 0 strong sell

Coca-Cola (the drink) was invented in 1886, a decade before the creation of the Dow. Coca-Cola (the stock) made a brief appearance as a component of the industrial average in the 1930s. Shares were added back to the Dow in 1987, and they’ve remained a stalwart member ever since. Like PepsiCo, Coca-Cola (the company) is adding everything from bottled water to fruit juices to sports drinks to its product lineup to make up for slowing soda sales. Unlike PepsiCo, Coca-Cola doesn’t have the equivalent of Pepsi’s Frito-Lay snack business to offset slumping soda sales. Over the past five years, shares in Coca-Cola are up just 24% versus a 64% gain for PepsiCo. At least the company's commitment to its dividend should be a source of comfort to income investors. Coca-Cola has paid a quarterly dividend since 1920, and that cash payout has increased annually for 55 straight years.

37 of 50

14. Amazon

Paris, France - January 28, 2016: Amazon logotype printed on cardboard box side seen from above on a wooden parwuet floor. Amazon is an American electronic e-commerce company distribution wor
  • Ticker symbol:AMZN
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $335.1 billion
  • Annualized return (June 1997-December 2016): 37.4%
  • Current share price: $1,305.20
  • Current dividend yield: N/A
  • Current analyst ratings: 30 strong buy, 4 buy, 2 hold, 0 sell, 1 strong sell, which began life as a modest website for book buyers, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary as a publicly traded company. It's been a heck of a ride for shareholders since the 1997 market debut. The stock’s 37.4% annualized return is by far the highest on this list. The performance is all the more remarkable considering most of the best stocks of all time have goosed their returns by paying out generous dividends for decades. The current bull market has been especially kind to Amazon investors, with the share price experiencing a 21-fold increase since March 2009. Amazingly, Amazon's best days may still lie ahead. In additional to evolving into the nation’s largest e-commerce company, Amazon is also a leader in cloud computing. Its recent acquisition of Whole Foods is threatening to disrupt the grocery business, and package delivery by drones could become reality in the not-too-distant future.

38 of 50

13. Procter & Gamble

SAN FRANCISCO - JANUARY 28:Tide laundry detergent, made by Procter & Gamble Co.,is seen on display at the Arguello Supermarket January 28, 2005 in San Francisco. Procter & Gamble Co. announce
  • Ticker symbol:PG
  • Lifetime wealth creation: $355.0 billion
  • Annualized return (September 1929-December 2016): 10.5%
  • Current share price: $89.61
  • Current dividend yield: 3.1%
  • Current analyst ratings: 6 strong buy, 1 buy, 6 hold, 0 sell, 0 strong sell

When it comes to income investing, Procter & Gamble is synonymous with reliability. The company has paid shareholders a dividend since 1891 and has raised its dividend annually for 61 years in a row. P&G’s inclusion in the Dow dates back to 1932. Few stocks are as venerable and dependable. P&G's products are also known for reliability. The company owns some of the best-known brands in the business including Charmin toilet paper, Crest toothpaste, Tide laundry detergent, Pampers diapers and Gillette razors. Despite selling consumer staples that are supposed to be less sensitive to the ups and downs of the economy, P&G is sensitive to competition. The growing popularity of discount retailers stocking cheaper store brands has been particularly challenging. Look to the stock price for proof: Shares in P&G have gained 29% in the last five years versus an 89% gain for the S&P 500.

39 of 50

12. Berkshire Hathaway

10 Best Performing Stocks of the 1990s: Where Are Those Companies Now?

The 5 Best-Performing Stocks of the Past 20 Years

Here's a roundup of 5 of the stocks that have had the highest total return over the past 20 years. All are listed in the S&P 500, which is comprised of 505 of the biggest companies in the U.S. market. All of these stocks rose dramatically faster than the S&P 500, which had a 255% total return during the same period. All numbers are as of Dec. 23, 2019.

Key Takeaways

  • Monster created a trend for caffeinated beverages.
  • Tractor Supply Co. supplied the growing number of hobby farmers.
  • Old Dominion increased its efficiency.
  • HollyFrontier rode the shale oil boom.
  • Altria prepared for a decline in cigarette sales.

The stocks on this list surprised us because it included some unexpected names and excluded many big names.

Don't take this as a blanket endorsement. While all of these stocks produced massive returns, the forces that fueled their growth may not continue into this decade.

For example, there are signs that the shale oil boom that boosted HollyFrontier is slowing.

In fact, the companies on this list may demonstrate that it's very hard to predict what companies will be winners years from now.

1. Monster Beverage Corp (MNST)

20-Year Trailing Total Return: 87,560%

The maker of aggressively-branded energy drinks such as BURN and Full Throttle in addition to its eponymous Monster brand, Monster Beverage Corporation (MNST) rose from surprisingly un-extreme beginnings. Before it changed its name to Monster Energy, Hansen Natural Corporation started in the 1930s selling fresh fruit juice, eventually expanding to iced tea and natural sodas. In a radical departure from its past, in 2002 it launched Monster, "the meanest energy drink on the planet," which is not recommended "for children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant women, or women who are nursing."

Sales exploded from $92 million in 2002 to more than $2 billion in 2012.  Monster was driving 90% of the company's sales by the time it changed its name to Monster Energy at the beginning of 2012. 

It just goes to show, it's never too late to turn around your image.

2. Tractor Supply Co. (TSCO)

20-Year-Trailing Total Return: 45,750%

Tractor Supply Co. (TSCO) is a retail store targeting a very specific market: people who farm as a hobby instead of to make a living.

The number of these farms, alternately referred to as hobby farms, lifestyle farms, or residential farms, has grown enormously in the past decades. The number of residential farms outside of large cities doubled from the end of 2008 to the end of 2013.

Warning: Past results are not an indicator of future performance!

As of the most recent department of agriculture census, 38% of all farms -- the largest category -- had owners whose primary occupation is not farming. By focusing directly on this market, Tractor Supply Co. has managed to grow despite the harsh headwinds against retailers in the past 20 years.

3. Old Dominion Freight Lines Inc.

20-Year-Trailing Return: 13,340%

Old Dominion Freight Lines is a trucking company specializing in small shipments, that is, "less than truckload" (LTL).

Its growth hasn't been driven by any special trend or major rebranding like Monster or Tractor. It's just an exceptionally well-run business. It has substantially increased its operating ratio, a margin of expenses to sales showing a business's efficiency, from just over 90% in 2006, to under 80% in 2018. It has increased its percentage of on-time deliveries from 94% in 2002, to 99% in 2018. The company has seen a 12.7% annual growth rate in revenue over the past 21 years, expanding its LTL market share from 2.9% in 2002 to 10% in 2018.

4. HollyFrontier Corp.

20-Year-Trailing Return: 11,810%

HollyFrontier Corp. is an oil refining company that was formed from the Holly and Frontier refining companies in 2011. It owns and operates five large refineries in Wyoming, Utah, Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.

HollyFrontier has had a significant location advantage over other refiners, such as those on the East and Gulf coasts, because its refineries are close to the locations of booming U.S. shale operations. In the past decade, advances in hydraulic fracturing technology have greatly increased U.S. oil production, which more than doubled from 2008 to 2018. Two major centers of this shale boom have been in the Bakken fields in North Dakota and the Permian and Eagle Ford shale formations in Texas, near HollyFrontier's refineries. 

5. Altria Group Inc.

20-Year-Trailing Return: 9,620%

Altria Group is the rebranded name for Phillip Morris, maker of tobacco products including Marlboro cigarettes. In 2003, it changed its name to Altria Group and spun off its international operations as Phillip Morris International in 2008.

Part of Altria's growth came before it spun off its international business, returning 2,340% between the end of 1999 and March 2008. That year, the two companies split as sales rose in international markets. However, since the split, Altria has actually outperformed Phillip Morris International, returning 328% versus Phillip Morris International's 190%, according to YCharts.

Altria pulled ahead in 2014 when Phillip Morris International's sales started to fall. Although the number of cigarettes Altria sold had been falling since 2009, they had implemented a host of cost-cutting measures and price increases to offset this. Its profits rose even as sales fell.

With more consumers favoring e-cigarettes, Altria is relying on its sizable stake in e-cigarette maker Juul, and a joint venture with Phillip Morris International to produce a product that heats, but doesn't burn tobacco, called IQOS. 


You will also be interested:

The 12 best-performing stocks of the 2000s

The stock market has certainly seen its ups and downs since the year 2000. But for many companies, it's been almost all ups.

Here we present the top 12 performing stocks since the year 2000.

We developed this list by analyzing historical price data from Morningstar, Yahoo! Finance, and Fidelity. You'll see an interesting mix of companies, including a good share of biotech and pharmaceuticals, some tech stocks, and even an insurance company. There are household names, as well as some firms that might be unfamiliar to you.

If you invested early in these companies, chances are you're reading this while retired somewhere on a tropical island.

1. Medivation [NASDAQ: MDVN]

This biopharmaceutical company was founded in 2004 and captured very little attention until a massive run-up in 2012, when it got government approval for a prostate cancer drug. The company recently announced a two-for-one split, its second in three years. Investors who got in early would have seen a 14,000% return on investment.

 2. Apple [NYSE: AAPL]

It's astonishing to think that at the end of 1999, you could buy a share of Apple stock for less than $4. The introduction of several of the most revolutionary products soon followed, and now Apple is worth more than any company in history. How does a 6,000% return on your investment sound to you? Kudos if you saw it coming at the beginning of 2000.

3. Universal Insurance Holdings, Inc. [NYSE: UVE]

Chances are you've never even heard of this company, but it's stock has grown exponentially since going public in 2007. This insurance company that operates in eight states has shown steady profits that a have benefited shareholders with an average annualized return of 84%, according to Morningstar.

4. Amazon [NASDAQ: AMZN]

Amazon gets hammered a lot for its low profit margins, but investors haven't been complaining. The online retailer went public in 1997, and since 2000 has seen its shares rise nearly 700%. But don't be mad if you didn't get in early, as shares have risen nearly 1,200% since 2008.

5. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. [NASDAQ: REGN]

This is yet another biopharmaceutical company that was largely invisible until it saw success with one of its drugs. In Regeneron's case, investors saw a big rise in 2012 following successful trials of a drug to treat macular degeneration of the eyes, and it also got approval for drugs to treat high cholesterol and colorectal cancer. Shares have continued to rise and have gone up another 40% this year. Its current price of more than $580 is 48 times what it was at the start of 2000.

6. Priceline [NASDAQ: PCLN]

If William Shatner was paid for his endorsement in stock, he's an even richer man than I suspected. The "name your price" travel site began the 2000s trading at about $340, and they are now trading at more than $1,200. That's even with a 6:1 split in 2003. Priceline weathered the tech meltdown, and it's been boosted by a series of acquisitions, including Kayak, OpenTable, and Asian travel site Agoda.

7. Netflix [NASDAQ: NFLX]

When Netflix began in 2002, it was a humble movie rental company that only dealt in discs. Streaming didn't even exist. Netflix overcame some blunders (remember Qwikster?) and became a leader in streaming movies and producing original online content. It now trades at more than $120, and that's after a 7:1 stock split in July.

8. Illumina, Inc. [NASDAQ: ILMN]

This maker of genome mapping machines went public in the summer of 2000, but didn't make much noise until 2013, when its shares more than tripled. It now has a corner on the genetics analysis business, with Illumina machines producing 90% of the DNA data out there. Company officials think there is a $20 billion market for high-speed DNA sequencing. Investors who got in early on Illumina will have seen a 1,000% return on investment, much of it in the last few years.

9. Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. [NASDAQ: ALXN]

Shares of this drug maker recently hit their highest levels ever, to the great benefit of anyone who got in at the early part of the 2000s. Shares began a rapid rise in 2011, when it received approval for its marquee drug, Soliris, which treats a rare blood disorder. A 2,500% rise in share price since 2000 makes this one of the best performing stocks of the last 15 years.

10. NewMarket Corp. [NYSE: NEU]

The parent company of Afton Chemical and Ethyl Corporation has seen almost nothing but steady share growth over the last 15 years, and didn't even dip much during the financial crisis in 2009. Shareholders will have seen a nearly 2,000% return on investment since the year 2000, and its dividend has been very reliable.

11. BioSpecifics Technologies Corp. [NASDAQ: BSTC]

Launched in 1957 as one of the nation's first biotech companies, BioSpecifics went public with little fanfare in 1991. In fact, it really didn't start to make noise until less than a decade ago. Shares of the Long Island-based company have risen 3,000% since 2000, with most of the rise in the last seven years. It had a great 2014 after good news surrounding its Xiaflex drug. The stock has shown some volatility recently, hitting a 52-week high in July before dropping 20% in the last month.

Get the Monitor Stories you care about delivered to your inbox.

12. Monster Beverage [NASDAQ: MNST]

The company that is synonymous with the energy drink craze has been one of the top stock performers of the last 15 years, with a huge run-up in the middle of the last decade, and shares have also more than doubled in the last 52 weeks. In 2014, Monster nearly caught up to Red Bull as the top-selling energy drink, and has a 40% market share.

This article is from Tim Lemke of Wise Bread, an award-winning personal finance and credit card comparison website.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Help fund Monitor journalism for $11/ month

Already a subscriber?Login

Mark Sappenfield illustration

Mark Sappenfield


Monitor journalism changes lives because we open that too-small box that most people think they live in. We believe news can and should expand a sense of identity and possibility beyond narrow conventional expectations.

Our work isn't possible without your support.


Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Already a subscriber?Login

Monitor Daily

Digital subscription includes:

  • Unlimited access to
  • archive.
  • The Monitor Daily email.
  • No advertising.
  • Cancel anytime.



8759 8760 8761 8762 8763