Stocks for the Long Run: Polaris vs. the S&P 500

Investing isn't easy. Even Warren Buffett counsels that most investors should invest in a low-cost index like the S&P 500. That way, "you'll be buying into a wonderful industry, which in effect is all of American industry," he says.

But there are, of course, companies whose long-term fortunes differ substantially from the index. In this series, we look at how individual stocks have performed against the broad S&P 500. 

Step on up, Polaris (NYSE: PII  ) .

Polaris shares have simply crushed the S&P 500 over the past quarter-century, with most of the outperformance coming in recent years:

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

Since 1987, shares have returned an average of 23.9% a year, compared with 9.7% a year for the S&P (both include dividends). That difference adds up fast. One thousand dollars invested in the S&P in 1987 would be worth $19,200 today. In Polaris, it'd be worth $943,600. 

Dividends accounted for a lot of those gains. Compounded since 1987, dividends have made up about 80% of Polaris's total returns. For the S&P, dividends account for 39% of total returns.

Now have a look at how Polaris earnings compare with S&P 500 earnings:

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

Decent outperformance. Since 1995, earnings per share have increased by an average of 11.5% per year, compared with 6% annual growth for the broader index.

What's that meant for valuations? Polaris has traded for an average of 16 times earnings since 1987 -- below the 24 times earnings of the broader S&P 500.

Through it all, shares have been strong performers over the past quarter-century.  

Of course, the important question is whether that will continue. That's where you come in. Our CAPS community currently ranks Polaris with a four-star rating (out of five). Care to disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, or add Polaris to My Watchlist.

Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. Follow him on Twitter, @TMFHousel. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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