7 Stocks That Won the Gold

I took a look at "the agony of defeat" yesterday, reviewing a few of the marquee stocks that have sorely underperformed the market over the past four years. Today, I'm handing out medals.

In honor of this month's Olympic Games in Beijing, I screened for some of the top-performing stocks with a unique timeframe. I went back to Aug. 13, 2004 -- the day of the opening ceremonies for the Athens Olympics -- and checked on how many of the most widely discussed stocks at the time performed through this month's opening ceremony in China.

The S&P 500 has gained 21.7% in that time, but here are a few of the big-name stocks that have sped past that mark with ease:

Company

8/13/04

8/8/08

Change

TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO  )

$3.75

$7.78

107.5%

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  )

$85.00

$495.01

482.4%

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  )

$15.42

$169.55

999.5%

Hansen Natural (Nasdaq: HANS  )

$2.79

$23.23

732.6%

Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  )

$14.98

$31.05

107.3%

Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  )

$36.13

$80.51

122.8%

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  )

$15.84

$45.82

189.3%

Apple and Hansen adjusted for stock splits.

Cue the corporate anthems
TiVo may be a surprising winner, since the stock has been waffling about in the single digits for ages. However, the company's finances -- and fundamentals -- have been improving lately. Instead of subsidizing hardware the way it did four years ago, TiVo's more promising opportunities these days lie in licensing its patents and delivering DVR-friendly solutions to advertisers and media networks.

I may be jumping the gun on Google, since its IPO took place a few days after the 2004 opening ceremonies. However, since the company went public by allowing some of its initial shareholders to bid for shares -- and a lack of demand dropped the price to $85 -- that was the price that individual investors were paying for Google at the time. In its subsequent four years on the market, Google has been on a tear, gobbling up market share in the lucrative search-engine space and becoming the world leader in online advertising.

Apple is the biggest winner in the list, and the key ingredients for the company's huge run were already in place four years ago. The iPod had already been the "must own" gadget for a few years leading into the 2004 Olympics. Its "halo effect" was already emerging, with iPod owners gradually embracing Apple's desktop and laptop computers, too. Now Apple has the iPhone to take the baton in this perpetual relay race, in which the company always seems to be the most stylish sprinter.

Hansen Natural is the most obscure of the medal winners, especially if you go back to 2004, but its Monster energy drinks cans were already flying off the shelves. Monster may have just lapped Red Bull domestically, but it's been a rewarding process along the way.

The Netflix story has been told plenty of times around here. I've been a proud shareholder -- and subscriber -- since shortly after its IPO in 2002. The convenience of home-delivered DVDs in an unlimited model is appealing to movie buffs, and profitable for Netflix. With 8.4 million subscribers and counting, Netflix is already a leader in streaming movies online, too, just in case the optical disc fades in format popularity.

Amazon.com has been defying the cynics for years. Now consumers and rival merchants count on the company to deliver the e-tail goods. Clever innovations like Amazon's Prime program, where customers pay $79 a year for free 2-day shipping of Amazon-stocked goods, are growing sales at a time when consumers are scaling back elsewhere.

Hewlett-Packard was a mess four years ago, but turnaround maven Mark Hurd and margin expansion have turned HP into one of the best tech hardware plays in recent years. Further gains will be more of a challenge, now that Hurd has squeezed the easy money out of HP's once-pathetic margins, but you have to like the company's chances.

Next stop: 2012
I'm not the only judge in scoring these market-beaters. I want you to hop on up and give it a shot. Which of these stocks will be the biggest winner by the time London's 2012 opening ceremonies kick in? Chime in via the comment box at the bottom of this page.

Four years can be a long time, but if you were fortunate enough to invest in any of these stocks, it was time well spent.

Other ways to stamp your passport:

Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Netflix, Amazon.com, and Apple are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Try any of our Foolish newsletters services free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has never won a gold medal. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story, save for Netflix and TiVo. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a faster, higher, stronger disclosure policy.


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