The Market's 10 Best Stocks

Life can only be understood backward; but it must be lived forward.

Those wise words about life from the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard could equally be applied to investing. As we seek to identify the big winners of the next decade, it makes a lot of sense to take a closer look at the greatest stocks of the past decade.

When then-Motley Fool writer Tim Hanson looked at the market's best stocks in 2005 and subsequent years, he discovered that they tended to be obscure, ignored, and small. This is mostly true as well of this year's batch of best stocks, though there were a couple of notable exceptions.

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) , which ranks seventh on our list of top-performing stocks over the past decade, is one huge exception, of course. Just 10 years ago, Apple had a market cap of $5.4 billion. Today, it has the No. 1 market cap in the world, and is one of the most respected and recognizable brands around. And in just the past 10 years, the company has introduced both the iPhone and iPad, two products that have transformed our culture in countless ways.

Many of the other top stocks were indeed small and obscure, however. Eight of the companies were valued below $100 million a decade ago. And four of the companies still have market caps below $1 billion, even with the remarkable returns they were able to generate over the past decade.

The market's 10 best stocks from The Motley Fool.

After looking at the list, a couple of things jump out at us. First, priceline (NASDAQ: PCLN  ) and WisdomTree (NASDAQ: WETF  ) were able to offer innovative products and services, which disrupted their industries in major ways. Learning more from Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor who is an expert on disruptive innovation, might be a wise resolution for all investors.

Secondly, boring, old energy and materials companies were well-represented on the list. This might be a good thing to remember the next time a shiny social networking IPO dominates the news coverage for several months.

Finally, when looking for the best stocks of the next decade, be on the lookout for meaningful trends. Some trends -- like the increasing use of the Internet for buying goods and services -- might be quite obvious. Other trends, however -- like the long-term shift to nitrogen fertilizers, which helped Terra Nitrogen (NYSE: TNH  ) make our list -- may not be so obvious.

There isn't, alas, some facile formula for finding the great stocks of the future. With discipline, imagination, and perhaps a bit of luck, it might be possible, however, to discover big winners that can turbocharge the overall returns of your portfolio.

One big question on a lot of investors' minds is whether Apple can continue its remarkable run. In our latest premium report, The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, lays out both the bull and bear cases for Apple. To get all of his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.

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Read/Post Comments (39) | Recommend This Article (212)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 24, 2012, at 5:05 PM, IndianaLarry wrote:

    I have high hopes that Motley Fool will not turn into a shark-appetite beast feeding on its followers who have already taken the first bite.

  • Report this Comment On December 25, 2012, at 1:21 AM, JerryRLS wrote:

    I am puzzled and confused: When a headline reads "The Ten Best Stocks..." I expect to read the names of ten stocks. Four is considerably less than ten! What gives? Is this simply some sort of come-on? Surely MFool is (or should be) above this sort of thing.

    Or have I made some sort of error here? If so, what have I gotten wrong?

  • Report this Comment On December 25, 2012, at 2:55 AM, billcarr wrote:

    Click on the Blue link Jerry.

    Maybe too much eggnog last night!

  • Report this Comment On December 25, 2012, at 7:37 AM, TMFBane wrote:

    @JerryRLS, There's a slideshow embedded within the article. You can use the arrows to navigate through the slides to see all ten companies. And there's also a link below those slides, which will take you directly to the Slideshare site, if you'd like to view them there. Sorry for the confusion!

  • Report this Comment On December 25, 2012, at 9:43 AM, KenFritz wrote:

    Jerry RLS You have to go through the slide presentation. I was confused at first also. Merry Christmas.

  • Report this Comment On December 25, 2012, at 10:28 AM, Horn1925 wrote:

    Get it right the first time and stop confusing us.leo

  • Report this Comment On December 25, 2012, at 4:41 PM, Threedollarbill wrote:

    I wished I'd owned all ten in my portfolio, but hindsight is 20/20. I own AAPL and Priceline (though picked up Priceline a bit late, although I still own it). Still some of the others might be worth putting on a watch list for the future. Thanks for the article.

  • Report this Comment On December 25, 2012, at 7:57 PM, sharpx2 wrote:

    Hmm no mention of recent investigations into energy drinks including some from Monster. If you are thinking about buying into that one, at least check the news stories first.

  • Report this Comment On December 25, 2012, at 8:38 PM, sjg1 wrote:

    So how come I bought wisdom tree when Mötley Fool first recommended it (or so I believe) and it has gone straight down.

  • Report this Comment On December 26, 2012, at 12:18 AM, ChkR wrote:

    This Guy is a Genius, Your Stuff is Like Every Other "No Name Investment Advisor" tring to make a buck by providing nothing when you put this junk on your site.

    "Why does every dufus need to put their content in the form of a video or slideshow? It is a irritating waste of time for all of us. Just put it down in black & white. A simple list or table is good for this kind of content. Quick & easy. We're here for information, not for fluff and gadgetry. Motley Fool is not alone in this, in fact many other sites are far worse. I could get information faster 20 years ago when I connected with a 300 baud moden and the internet wasn't yet called the internet, because the information/data just showed up as green print on a black screen with no useless garbage bagged with it.

  • Report this Comment On December 26, 2012, at 8:32 AM, mikecart1 wrote:

    Ok it is nice to see what are the best 10 stocks of the past 7 years. How about the best 10 stocks for the next 7 years hehe?

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2012, at 9:52 AM, midnightmoney wrote:

    ChKr, did you not get the toy you were hoping for for christmas?

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2012, at 5:06 PM, anuvaka wrote:

    It looks like TMF Services have recomended 2 or less than them.

    Wonder what that means.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2012, at 11:17 AM, Egrady318 wrote:

    In the slide on Monster it says that it is helping satisfy the need for "natural" energy drinks or sodas? What its the natural claim for Monster? It rates like its made from different types of sugar and household cleaners to me...

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2012, at 12:34 PM, kickbishopbrenna wrote:

    yep, nice list of "more or less reached their peaks" stocks..not much use for new money, as some if not many will most likely retreat from here..? Hopefully we'll see some of our MDP list in there in future..some are fast running up, several others look set to take off..here's wishing all Fools well in the New Year.

    With the cliff looming, I feel like a bsae jumper running for take-off, being Irish though, I failed to realise I'm already at the bottom :-) ouch!

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2012, at 12:46 PM, vaidybala wrote:

    I agree with some responders that information be summarized for a Quick & Easy Understanding. Too many past glories don't appeal to investors!

    thanks for listening.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2012, at 1:20 PM, yaaaaright wrote:

    Why do I pay to see what we should have bought?

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2012, at 1:32 PM, phillyarchitect wrote:

    I note that only Priceline and Apple are on the Stock Adviser list of recommended stocks. Hmmm. Maybe the article should be entitled the Ten Best Stocks that It's too Late to Invest In.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2012, at 1:33 PM, phillyarchitect wrote:

    Or maybe it should have been Ten Great Stocks to Sell Short.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2012, at 1:35 PM, mike1515 wrote:

    Once again, tell me when to do it not what to do.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2012, at 2:06 PM, gene132 wrote:

    Well, Tesla is not one of them. Frankly, I believe that all of these "Green" firms are in for a Bear Market..or even a crash. The economics of alternative energy just don't make sense.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2012, at 2:52 PM, buckeye99 wrote:

    - via nice slideshow, i stepped thru all 10 stocks in about 5 secs, got a great overview of what i wanted to know right away. then read more details in the article, using those clever blue links.

    - it's the best stocks of past 10 years, not 7. 2005 was just the year of prior article being referenced,

    which similarly pointed out how the top performers were obscure, ignored, small (hint hint).

    - the first sentence and paragraph of this article clealry explains the whole point of it.

    - nobody can tell you what 10 best of next decade will be. some stocks, even those picked my MF, do go down (shocking!)

    - plenty of recommendations avail from MF every day to invest wisely (best buy now, core, etc), but no guarantees. read, research, learn from past.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2012, at 3:39 PM, wadetaylor wrote:

    I agree with ChkR - straight forward articles would serve me best. Save the PP for the boardroom where it may be important to confound and generally confuse. Happy New Year to everyone.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2012, at 5:12 PM, WilliamTClark wrote:

    Unless the Fool simplies their post, gets to the point, I will not be back next year.

    Fool, tell us what you got and why. Don't make us dig through ten pages. I am fed up with this site.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2012, at 10:19 PM, lowmaple wrote:

    Try getting info off he "street". Takes 5 to 10 times longer and 5 times the ads

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2012, at 8:10 AM, silvianawinata wrote:

    sorry, but the chart of DIA AND SKF have a problem. primely SKF chart will move into aufull now different 1 or 2 years a go. and now stock must payed the taxed make the trading will move into down move (bearist).could you explaint it. thank you mouthy fool for the attantions

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2012, at 3:28 PM, hoppsy wrote:

    I TOO WOULD APPRECIATE JUST THE HARD COLD FACTS. HOT HYPE.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2012, at 4:31 PM, buckeye99 wrote:

    it doesn't get much simpler than that article with a quick slide presentation. can gather all the important info in a matter of seconds from the slides, or link to the simple black and white text for those who have more time to kill. i appreciate MF using all the tools available to communicate info and data as quickly as possible. that's why we're online at an investing website, and not just reading a book or newspaper or magazine, plenty of those already out there for those who prefer.

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2012, at 1:37 AM, becauseby wrote:

    Tesla, Road & Tracks car of the year, a green firm? A nice automobile. Infinitely less mechanically complex than an internal combustion machine.

    People are so illiterate to what is under the hood of their internal combustion automobile. Manufacturers of the internal combustion engine has done an incredible job at producing them just because of the abundant availability of gasoline.

    But a simple AC induction motor is virtually only one moving part. The rest of the components of inducing the electricity is evolving at an incredible rate. Shear technological momentum will insure an electric car of the future.

    Maybe you will be able to tear yourself away from that nasty gasoline exhaust spewing oil leaking antique. Possibly if you have ever witnessed a person burning to death from a bad rear-ender crash you might realize what a dinosaur your riding in.

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2012, at 9:14 PM, caudle8498 wrote:

    10 stocks? Waste of my time. Only would even consider one of them, at a much lower price. NEU maybe. Price too high at the moment. Where is the recommended buy price? Have a moat? Too dependent on the sales of gasoline. Motley Fool is always telling us to buy some off the radar stock and hope like hell it goes up and never tells anyone when to dump it. Sorry I wasted my money on this service.

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2012, at 10:26 PM, alanbs58 wrote:

    Like most good information services, you should include an Executive Summary up front with a <500 word abstract, including things like the list of 10 stocks. You can include the rest of the information as part of the post for those who care to dig deeper, but it's essential to provide the essence of the post up front. Your readers paid for the information, so give it to them succinctly in the Exec Sum up front.

  • Report this Comment On December 31, 2012, at 1:07 PM, carolec100 wrote:

    what to buy

    when to buy

    when to sell

  • Report this Comment On January 01, 2013, at 5:21 PM, jonh1959 wrote:

    I'm not so sure about the fool anymore, I think we are truly the fools. They tease you with information and programs which all require you to invest money in the fool web site. Many of the stocks they portray somehow never find their way into the fool portfolio. Why should I add them to mine.

  • Report this Comment On January 01, 2013, at 9:46 PM, BigIsBAD5466 wrote:

    Markets 10 best stocks...

    I only counted 5 in this article. Then it asked to sign up for SUPERNOVA.

    I do not like this "come on" approach to getting my attention (and money)

    Anything like straight forward details, save the sales pitch after completeing the story (or at best in the middle of the story, then continue

  • Report this Comment On January 02, 2013, at 10:50 AM, Story14 wrote:

    This is no way to treat your customers or do business. This is simply a come on, all hype and no substance. Those past videos saying Motley Fool is different is just not true. Otherwise, why would you offer 10 stocks and only provide 4.

  • Report this Comment On January 02, 2013, at 11:43 AM, 48ozhalfgallons wrote:

    Hey all, quit complaining! This is free stuff, just like the free mini cigarette packs handed out on every street corner in big cities.

  • Report this Comment On January 02, 2013, at 4:48 PM, MARrshh wrote:

    I hate slideshows, almost as much as I hate videos. Let's have a revival of the art of good writing skills. Simplicity can be hugely attractive.

  • Report this Comment On January 02, 2013, at 8:36 PM, wlg wrote:

    Free stuff or not, MF is stooping to levels seen in less reputable sites with its teasers. I am very disappointed because I held MF in high esteem.

  • Report this Comment On March 28, 2013, at 7:28 AM, emillygray wrote:

    Yes great to see the blog but the title seems somewhat different so please clear all these bluring aspects.

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