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Halloween is long gone and the ghosts of Christmas presents are getting ready to deplete our collective savings, but this week most of us will give thanks for what the past year has brought. Although the markets have been anything but calm through the fall, there are enough islands of good fortune to give many investors a reason to be grateful. In that spirit, I've put together a list of some stocks that offer a reason to give thanks, whether you've held them for a long time or if you plan to pick up some shares after Thanksgiving dessert.
Thankful for consistency
Dividend investors tend to appreciate a stock that keeps on paying out through all kinds of economic climates, especially one that has a history of dividend growth older than most middle managers. Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ ) has a 49-year streak of dividend increases, and its dominant position in the health-care industry is an ideal place to be, since the boomer generation will clamor for better health through longer retirements.
Another dividend stalwart is General Electric (NYSE: GE ) , a dividend marathoner that's paid out every year since 1899. The company's financial-services exposure to the subprime crisis might seem worrisome, but the size and costs of its financial operations have declined quite a bit since peaking in 2008. The segment was solidly in the black in the most recent quarter, even accounting for a swing from tax benefits back to tax payments. With the company focused on expanding its energy offerings, GE has a path to dividend payments for another century.
Thankful for yield
Market uncertainty has been beneficial to some high-yielding companies -- they've thrived in an era of low interest rates. Annaly Capital (NYSE: NLY ) sports a hefty 15% yield, and American Capital Agency (Nasdaq: AGNC ) is even better, boasting a full 20% yield. Fellow Fool Jim Royal worries that the mortgage REITs' unique structures leave them vulnerable to an economic turnaround, so owners ought to keep an eye on the macro picture.
Investing in these stocks in uncertain times would have brought great returns, though. Annaly's stock (with dividends reinvested) gained an average of 16% annually for the past five years, and American Capital Agency's up an impressive 187% since going public in the depths of the recession. With full employment far from certain and the world's economic overlords struggling to cope with myriad problems, these mortgage REITs aren't in clear and present danger. No one's thankful for economic turmoil, but any stock that can perform well in such an environment is a welcome portfolio addition.
Thankful for growth
Annaly's performance has been nothing to sneeze at, but it pales in comparison to Hansen Natural's (Nasdaq: HANS ) turbo-charged growth. The maker of Monster Energy is the undisputed growth king of the past decade, during which its stock price has rocketed up 18,100%. This incredible performance includes a 69% gain for the past year and a 217% improvement in the past five years:
You don't need to be good at math to see that Hansen has had a monster (pardon the pun) decade, even as the Dow has been a sad little flat line in comparison. The company's signature energy drinks have gone from zero to rivaling private Red Bull for market-share lead in many of its markets.
The company continued to grow its sales and profitability in further quarters, and with its share of the energy drink market at a mere 30.4%, according to the company's third-quarter report, both long-term and recent investors should be thankful for this company's place in their portfolios. And, at least in my humble opinion, the stuff tastes a lot better than Red Bull.
Thankful for opportunities
Value can come from unexpected companies, but it can also be hiding in plain sight. I've come across two potentially generous stocks for opportunistic investors. They operate in wildly different industries, but both are stable companies that boast long histories of success. I'm talking about Seagate (Nasdaq: STX ) and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE ) . Both companies sport dividend yields in excess of 4%, and both have forward P/E ratios well under 10, with Seagate's forward P/E hovering under 6. It's almost as if the market doesn't expect the world to need more hard drives.
Thanks to industry consolidation, Seagate bumped its market share to 40% earlier this year. When viewed alongside Western Digital's consolidative moves, Seagate is now part of a de facto hard drive duopoly, with the two major players controlling 90% of the industry. As the only dividend payer of the pair, Seagate is a better opportunity, and if its trajectory proves accurate, it'll be an excellent bargain.
Pfizer has been dealing with market-share issues of a different nature, as its blockbuster drug Lipitor will be available in generic form very soon. The company could roll out an over-the-counter version to keep sales humming, but it's also working to get its Prevnar vaccine wider distribution. Bill Gates is throwing his weight behind vaccines, which should only offer greater impetus for Pfizer to develop wide-ranging solutions to common diseases.
Thankful for Foolishness
This is by no means a complete list, and I'm sure that the Foolish community has some of their own stocks to be thankful for. Give your favorites their due by commenting below, and feel free to offer thanks to anything about the market -- or our Foolish community -- that's been of particular help to you in the past year.
If you'd like to discover more stocks to be thankful for, take a look at The Motley Fool's new report of 11 top dividend stocks. Johnson & Johnson is one, but all are revealed in this free report -- reserve your copy today.