The Biggest Winners Since the Bull Market Began

The bull market turns five this weekend. Find out which sectors and stocks led the way higher.

Mar 7, 2014 at 7:03PM

On March 9, 2009, stocks hit what would turn out to be their lowest levels of the bear market of 2008 and early 2009. In the five years since then, investors have seen huge gains in the stock market, with even the major-market benchmarks posting incredible returns of 150% to 200%.

But some sectors and stocks contributed more to the bull-market run than others. With that in mind, let's look at the biggest winners during the past five years for some insight on where the market might go from here.

Winners and losers among market sectors
Among broad-based sectors, consumer discretionary stocks and financial stocks were the two sectors that posted the largest gains among the S&P's major industry groups. Using the Sector Select SPDR ETFs as proxies for each industry, consumer discretionary posted the largest gains, with a 314% rise during the past five years, while financials weren't far behind, with gains of 260%. This makes sense when you think about which sectors were hit hardest during the 2008 bear market, as the recession brought spending on discretionary purchases to a standstill, and the financial crisis brought banks and other financial companies to the brink of failure. Having been hit the hardest, the companies that survived had the most ground to recover.

The gains during the past five years could have been even larger were it not for the lagging performance of utilities and consumer-staples stocks, which posted gains of only 72% and 116%, respectively. With a reputation for being conservative, utilities generally underperform during upward-moving markets in exchange for providing better downside protection when broader markets drop, and during the past year, utilities have faced some pressure from rising interest rates. Similarly, many consumer-staples giants have high dividends and subpar growth potential, making them more suitable for defensive portfolios, and leaving them to trade more like bonds than stocks in many ways.

Which stocks climbed the furthest?
Obviously, the past five years have given investors plenty of success stories. But the surprising thing is that, when you look at the best performing stocks among current S&P 500 stocks during that period, you find a wide variety of different industries represented.

The biggest winners were companies that were essentially left for dead. For instance, topping the list was General Growth Partners (NYSE:GGP), which has gained almost 7,700% during the past five years. In early 2009, General Growth looked primed to be the next casualty of the real-estate crash, with the company filing for bankruptcy in April 2009, and many writing off the company as doomed. Yet, as it turned out, with the help of activist investors, the REIT was able to restructure itself and emerge from bankruptcy without wiping out shareholders. Those who stuck with General Growth profited from the recovery immensely.

Similarly, insurance company Genworth Financial (NYSE:GNW) has risen almost twentyfold since the depths of the financial crisis. Insurance companies got hit especially hard during the financial crisis, as many of their annuity products had made guarantees to their policyholders to cover declines in the financial markets. Moreover, with exposure to the mortgage-insurance market, Genworth suffered from the housing crunch, as well. Yet, as insurance markets stabilized, investments recovered, and even the housing market hit bottom -- Genworth found ways to prosper.

But not all of the winners came from the financial and real-estate realm. Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN) had many investors scared that the long dominion of Macau as the gaming capital of the world would come to an end, hurting a major growth driver for the casino company. Yet, five years later, Wynn shareholders have enjoyed total returns of more than 2,100%, as international strength in gaming has returned even as Las Vegas has had a harder road to recovery than its counterparts across the Pacific. With smart capital management that put Wynn in a better position than some of its more-leveraged peers, the stock's performance showed the value of strong leadership in difficult times.

In addition, innovation still proved to be a money-making strategy for investors. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:REGN) largely treaded water until 2011, when it won FDA approval for its Eylea drug to treat macular degeneration. During 2012, the stock more than tripled, as demand for Eylea made the drug a blockbuster. With $2.1 billion in total revenue, Regeneron has justified its ascent, with gains of more than 2,500% to show for its shareholders.

Five more years?
Obviously, it's too early to tell whether the bull market will end tomorrow or keep running for years to come. But even with impressive gains, you can still find many stocks that have the potential for even further growth. If they succeed in realizing that potential, they could help keep the stock market healthy well into the future.

You can pick winning stocks
Many investors think there's no way to find winners before they succeed. But David Gardner has proved them wrong, time, and time, and time again, with stock returns like 926%, 2,239%, and 4,371%. In fact, just recently, one of his favorite stocks became a 100-bagger. And he's ready to do it again. You can uncover his scientific approach to crushing the market and his carefully chosen six picks for ultimate growth instantly, because he's making this premium report free for you today. Click here now for access.

Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Money to your ears - A great FREE investing resource for you

The best way to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as “binge-worthy finance.”

Feb 1, 2016 at 5:03PM

Whether we're in the midst of earnings season or riding out the market's lulls, you want to know the best strategies for your money.

And you'll want to go beyond the hype of screaming TV personalities, fear-mongering ads, and "analysis" from people who might have your email address ... but no track record of success.

In short, you want a voice of reason you can count on.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich," rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

And one of the easiest, most enjoyable, most valuable ways to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as "binge-worthy finance."

Whether you make it part of your daily commute or you save up and listen to a handful of episodes for your 50-mile bike rides or long soaks in a bubble bath (or both!), the podcasts make sense of your money.

And unlike so many who want to make the subjects of personal finance and investing complicated and scary, our podcasts are clear, insightful, and (yes, it's true) fun.

Our free suite of podcasts

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. The show is also heard weekly on dozens of radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers are timeless, so it's worth going back to and listening from the very start; the other three are focused more on today's events, so listen to the most recent first.

All are available for free at www.fool.com/podcasts.

If you're looking for a friendly voice ... with great advice on how to make the most of your money ... from a business with a lengthy track record of success ... in clear, compelling language ... I encourage you to give a listen to our free podcasts.

Head to www.fool.com/podcasts, give them a spin, and you can subscribe there (at iTunes, Stitcher, or our other partners) if you want to receive them regularly.

It's money to your ears.

 


Compare Brokers