The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) is hovering just below its all-time high of 14,164.53, set in 2007. To climb this high, the market has overcome everything from European economy meltdowns to American fiscal-cliff fears.
So the index sits at 98.8% of its all-time high. Only five of its 30 component stocks can match or beat that impressive stat. Here they are:
These five elite performers closed Tuesday's session at more than 99% of their all-time highs. But they took wildly different paths to get there.
The big winners
Nobody here made it through the subprime disaster of 2008 unscathed, but Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS ) sank faster than the other record-breakers here. Theme park and movie theater attendance suffered from pressure on personal budgets. But the Mouse came roaring back with a tremendously successful slate of hits from its Pixar and Marvel divisions -- two of the most successful acquisitions in Mr. Market's recent memory. With the recent addition of Star Wars owner Lucasfilm not yet adding to current results, I don't think Disney's rocket ride will slow down anytime soon.
Travelers (NYSE: TRV ) has proven itself to be a fantastically well-run insurance writer to the point that not even Superstorm Sandy put much of a dent in the company's bottom-line results. This is one of the Dow's smallest components by market cap and sales, but it's a solid money-maker for investors nonetheless.
Materials and consumer goods giant 3M (NYSE: MMM ) proves the old adage that slow and steady wins the race. The Minnesotans don't jump from one exciting plot point to another, but deliver solid progress built on innovation instead. It's enough of a market-spanning conglomerate to balance out one division's faults with success in another, though that dynamic also holds 3M back from dramatic, companywide jumps.
Go ahead and laugh. I find it hard to lump Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ ) and Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG ) together as less-than-spectacular performers, especially because both have joined that exclusive 99% club recently.
But these stocks haven't blown the Dow benchmark away over the last decade like the other tickers we've discussed.
Some of J&J's traditional growth engines have sputtered as they ran into tougher regulations or increasingly mature markets. The company is thinking about new growth strategies such as spinning out underperforming operations. Investors still have faith in the company's stellar dividend policy and rock-solid cash generation, but it's hardly a growth stock nowadays.
Last but not least, P&G has been a pretty good proxy for the Dow over the last decade. The company balances volume growth against pricing power in a tricky, never-ending high-wire act. It always comes down to execution, and P&G's experienced management team rarely disappoints.
I should also point out that both P&G and J&J sport tremendous dividend policies, which help investors outperform the average Dow stocks in the long run.
You know the story: Past performance doesn't indicate future returns.
Likewise, you shouldn't expect these five stocks to keep rising just because they're setting all-time records right now. Every stock tells a unique story. Long-term investors don't put much truck in price momentum, but rather dig in to really understand their stocks one by one. Luckily, one of our best advisory services just opened up for new subscribers to help you do your homework.
It's been a great five-year run for investors, with the Dow and S&P at or near all-time highs. Yet fears abound. When will the next downturn hit? Will political gridlock lead to portfolio-killing inflation? To learn how to protect your portfolio, click here for free guidance from the Motley Fool Pro Academy!