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As the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) soar past their previous record high in today's session, it's important to have a longer-term perspective on the market's performance. Although the stock market on the whole may be roughly at the same level it was more than five years ago, many of the individual stocks within the Dow have seen huge moves in either direction over that time.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the Dow's best performers since the average's previous record, set on Oct. 9, 2007.
Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) , up 145%
The overall stock market was still going strong in late 2007, but Home Depot provides a good reminder that even before the Dow started declining, there were already some cracks in the market. Home Depot had already fallen substantially from its 2005 and 2006 highs by October 2007, even as the full extent of the housing bust wasn't yet known. Since then, though, a rock-solid business strategy has helped the stock rise to new all-time records. Home Depot navigated stay-in-your-home trends in 2008 and 2009 that favored remodeling over trading up to a new home. As housing has recovered, Home Depot has gone back to its traditional business mix to capitalize on both new construction and renovations.
McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) , up 101%
Unlike most Dow stocks, McDonald's never took a break during the bear market of 2008. Even though the stock was already at highs in late 2007, McDonald's kept gaining ground even as the broader market crashed. In fact, the biggest declines for McDonald's stock came in 2012, when overseas growth slowed down enough to bring overall monthly comparable-store sales down slightly for the first time in nearly a decade. But the stock has participated in the recent rebound and is poised for further gains, if the global economy cooperates.
IBM (NYSE: IBM ) , up 91%
IBM's share price is the highest in the Dow, giving it the most influence of any Dow component. But steady growth has come from the company's solid management in picking the right growth areas. Moving away from hardware, IBM has become a giant in IT services, with a particular focus on plays related to the big-data opportunity in information management. As those trends move forward, IBM still has room to move higher.
Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) , up 82%
Like McDonald's, Wal-Mart was insulated from the pain of the 2008 bear market. But the following couple of years weren't so kind, as the company endured nine straight quarters of falling same-store sales before finally rebounding. Now, even as Wal-Mart deals with an international bribery scandal, its fundamentals remain healthy, and its value orientation is still relevant even as the economy rebounds modestly.
Of these stocks, the biggest disappointment of 2012 was McDonald's. But smart investors are asking whether now is the time to invest in McDonald's while shares are still on the value menu. Let the Fool's top restaurant analyst shed light on whether McDonald's is a buy at today's prices by reading our premium research report on the fast-food giant. Click here now to get your copy today.