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Dec. 28, 2019, 4:23 p.m. EST

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

Some lesser-known companies have special advantages in their industries

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By Philip van Doorn, MarketWatch


MarketWatch photo illustration/Getty Images, iStockphoto
Netflix is the runaway winner for total returns in the S&P 500 over the past 10 years, but Amazon.com and Apple are also impressive.

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 /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +1.12%  returned 165% (with dividends reinvested) and the S&P 500 Index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.91% 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:

Company Ticker FactSet industry category Total return - Dec. 31, 2009, through Dec. 5, 2019 Years ranked within top 10 performers
Netflix Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202353025/composite NFLX Cable/Satellite TV 3,767% 3
MarketAxess Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202710814/composite MKTX Investment Banks/Brokers 3,182% 2
Abiomed Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202106417/composite ABMD Medical Specialties 2,121% 3
TransDigm Group Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203902625/composite TDG Aerospace & Defense 2,065% 0
Broadcom Inc. /zigman2/quotes/200646538/composite AVGO Semiconductors 1,919% 1
Align Technology Inc. /zigman2/quotes/200300692/composite ALGN Medical Specialties 1,458% 1
United Rentals Inc. /zigman2/quotes/204230955/composite URI Finance/Rental/Leasing 1,434% 1
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203149337/composite REGN Biotechnology 1,430% 2
Ulta Beauty Inc. /zigman2/quotes/210513442/composite ULTA Specialty Stores 1,233% 1
Amazon.com Inc. /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN Internet Retail 1,209% 1
Extra Space Storage Inc. /zigman2/quotes/208054924/composite EXR Real Estate Investment Trusts 1,166% 1
Constellation Brands Inc. Class A /zigman2/quotes/207737284/composite STZ Beverages: Alcoholic 1,124% 0
Nvidia Corp. /zigman2/quotes/200467500/composite NVDA Semiconductors 1,117% 2
Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. /zigman2/quotes/204008930/composite TTWO Recreational Products 1,114% 1
Ross Stores Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202639496/composite ROST Apparel/Footwear Retail 1,081% 0
Fortinet Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205733290/composite FTNT Computer Communications 1,079% 1
Mastercard Inc. Class A /zigman2/quotes/207581792/composite MA Finance/Rental/Leasing 1,078% 1
Charter Communications Inc. Class A /zigman2/quotes/201656355/composite CHTR Cable/Satellite TV 1,077% 0
O'Reilly Automotive Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207206119/composite ORLY Specialty Stores 1,060% 1
Cintas Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201631915/composite 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  is far ahead of the pack, with a spectacular 3,767% return. That translates to a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 44.1%. Amazon.com  ranks 10th, and its 1,209% return translates to a CAGR of 29.3%. Apple /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL -0.29%  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 , 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.”

Sectors

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 Sector Total 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:

Company Ticker FactSet industry category Total return - 2019, through Dec. 5 Total return - Dec. 31, 2009, through Dec. 5, 2019 Years ranked within top 10 performers
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. /zigman2/quotes/208144392/composite AMD Semiconductors 115% 310% 3
Lam Research Corp. /zigman2/quotes/208077897/composite LRCX Electronic Production Equipment 98% 632% 1
Xerox Holdings Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201169674/composite XRX Computer Peripherals 96% 122% 1
Target Corp. /zigman2/quotes/207799045/composite TGT Specialty Stores 95% 241% 1
Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. /zigman2/quotes/200781108/composite CMG Restaurants 90% 818% 3
Coty Inc. Class A /zigman2/quotes/208645074/composite COTY Household/Personal Care 87% N/A 1
KLA Corp. /zigman2/quotes/209248041/composite KLAC Electronic Production Equipment 85% 629% 1
Copart Inc. /zigman2/quotes/200378896/composite CPRT Miscellaneous Commercial Services 85% 851% 1
Arconic Inc. /zigman2/quotes/216391721/composite ARNC Aluminum 82% N/A 1
MarketAxess Holdings Inc. Investment Banks/Brokers 82% 3182% 2
MSCI Inc. Class A /zigman2/quotes/202905332/composite MSCI Financial Publishing/Services 79% 770% 1
ANSYS Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207638775/composite ANSS Packaged Software 77% 480% 0
TransDigm Group Inc. Aerospace & Defense 76% 2065% 0
Qorvo Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209919828/composite QRVO Semiconductors 74% 445% 1
Applied Materials Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209393259/composite AMAT Industrial Machinery 74% 393% 1
Leidos Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202902477/composite LDOS Information Technology Services 73% 212% 0
Global Payments Inc. /zigman2/quotes/201234787/composite GPN Data Processing Services 72% 560% 1
Fortune Brands Home & Security Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202019304/composite FBHS Building Products 71% N/A 0
Apple Inc. Telecommunications Equipment 71% 899% 0
Tyson Foods Inc. Class A /zigman2/quotes/201117502/composite 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

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Philip van Doorn covers various investment and industry topics. He has previously worked as a senior analyst at TheStreet.com. He also has experience in community banking and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York.

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