This bull market just won’t quit after seven long years. That means big bucks for patient investors.
The bull market turns seven on Wednesday, a happy milestone for just about all investors. But it’s been an even more spectacular period for those who had invested in one of ten stocks in the current Standard & Poor’s 500 index, including real estate investment trust General Growth, biotech Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and sports apparel maker Under Armour. These stocks each scored incredible gains of 1,500% or more during the past seven years since the bull started on March 9, 2009, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.
The ongoing bull market stands out largely due to its longevity. It ranks as the third longest continuous bull market just behind the storied run that raged for more than nine years until sputtering out in March 2000 when the dot-com bubble burst, says Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices.
But this bull has power to match its age, at least for investors with the guts to hang on in the right spots. Shares of companies that sell goods and services to U.S. consumers have been especially strong. Six of the 10 best stocks are in the consumer discretionary sector, which is the label for companies that sell non-essential items. “The strong performance of these names … is a reflection of that healthier consumer,” says Michael Farr, CEO of investment management firm Farr, Miller & Washington. “The U.S. economy has enjoyed a much smoother and steadier recovery compared to most foreign economies.”
Simply hanging on and owning the S&P 500 has generated a cumulative gain of nearly 200% through Tuesday’s close. But this bull market has been capable of so much more on an individual stock basis. More than 60% of the stocks in the S&P 500 that have been trading the past seven years have beaten the market’s gains. Some by a staggering amount.
REIT General Growth is the biggest darling of this bull market, up a stellar 7,295% since the bull market started seven years ago. The company, which is based in Chicago and owns shopping malls, has staged strong performance not just in terms of its stock, but also its bottom line. The company posted a net loss of roughly $1.3 billion in 2009, but had posted a net profit of $1.4 billion in 2015. Shares have soared from 38 cents seven years ago to $27.97 today. The stock “did so well because during the great recession ten years ago, General Growth declared bankruptcy (protection) due to a high level of floating rate debt which sent the common stock almost to zero,” says Paul Adornato, research analyst at BMO Capital Markets. “The stock was trading for pennies during this time.”
Biotech was a great place for investors during most of the bull market, and the stock to own was Regeneron. The company develops or sells treatments for a number of conditions ranging from macular degeneration to cardiovascular disease. Shares of Regeneron surged nearly 3,100% during the bull. It’s easy to see why investors are so pumped. Revenue at the company has soared 981% to $4.1 billion for 2015 from seven years ago. Company has gone from losing money seven years ago to posting a net profit of $636.1 million in 2015.
Tying into the theme of the healthy U.S. consumer is Under Armour, which has been the bull’s third best stock with a gain of more than 2,500%. The company makes a variety of sports apparel and has gotten too big for even rival Nike to ignore. Under Armour’s revenue last year of $3.9 billion may only be about a tenth of Nike’s revenue of $30.6 billion, but it’s up 363% since 2009 while Nike’s revenue has grown 60%.
Investors will have to wait to see if the bull market can stay alive. But these companies — if they want to keep their momentum — need a healthy U.S. economy, Farr says. Half of these 10 best stocks in the bull are now down this year. “Each company listed is heavily dependent on a healthy U.S.” he says.
BEST PERFORMING STOCKS SINCE THE BULL STARTED SEVEN YEARS AGO *
Company, symbol, % ch. since 3/9/2009, Sector
- General Growth Properties, GGP, 7,295%, Financials
- Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, REGN, 3,084%, Healthcare
- Under Armour, UA, 2,514%, Consumer discretionary
- Wyndham Worldwide, WYN, 2,299%, Consumer disretionary
- United Rentals, URI, 1,776%, Industrials
- Hanesbrands, HBI, 1,763%, Consumer discretionary
- Netflix, NFLX, 1,650%, Consumer discretionary
- CBS, CBS, 1,556%, Consumer discretionary
- Priceline, PCLN, 1,537%, Consumer discretionary
- Extra Space Storage, EXR, 1,527%, Financials
Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence, USA TODAY
* Based on current members of the S&P 500