Intuitive Surgical Is Called Up

Like a minor-league hurler with a great arm -- a robotic arm, actually -- Intuitive Surgical (Nasdaq: ISRG  ) is getting called up to the big leagues.

The company behind the da Vinci Surgical System that is revolutionizing the operating table will be joining the S&P 500 after next week's market close, replacing the blushing bride-to-be Bear Stearns (NYSE: BSC  ) .

Yes, the Standard & Poor's 500 really is exactly 500 stocks, and anytime a stock is acquired or demoted, some promising rookie is added to the widely watched market index.

Being tapped for the S&P 500 is important, because several of the country's largest index funds mirror the gauge. In other words, these index funds will be snapping up shares of Intuitive Surgical to stay in lockstep with the 500-stock metric before June.

As usual, the S&P 500 is late to many of these great growth stock stories.

Intuitive Surgical was initially recommended to Rule Breakers subscribers in the spring of 2005. The stock has gone on to soar 416% higher.

There's nothing wrong with Intuitive Surgical today. The company has beaten Wall Street's profit expectations in 22 consecutive quarters. The valuation may be rich, but so is the company's growth rate. The company has the key ingredients to beat the market from here, which will be ironic in that it will be one of the 500 components that define said market.

Still, it would tickle me to see the S&P 500 hop on to obvious growth stories earlier:

  • GameStop (NYSE: GME  ) was added over the holidays, long after the video game retailer had established itself as the undisputed market champ of a booming retail industry.
  • NYSE Euronext (NYSE: NYX  ) was inducted, only after Hilton was snapped up in October of last year. The company had rolled up several global exchanges -- above and beyond its flagship New York Stock Exchange -- well before being tapped.
  • Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) didn't go in until 2005 and 2006 respectively, long after they had established themselves as technology bellwethers.

One certainly can't expect the S&P 500 to be an early adopter, but it wouldn't hurt if it hops on the obvious before it becomes obvious.

Either way, kudos to Intuitive Surgical. It certainly doesn't need validation given its impressive growth tear, but it sure will be a hoot to call up my conservative investing buddies parked in Vanguard's S&P 500-tracking fund and let them know what they're holding.

Intuitive Surgical and NYSE Euronext are recommendations in the Motley Fool Rule Breakers growth stock newsletter service. GameStop and Amazon.com are Stock Advisor selections. Find out why with a free 30-day subscription offers to any or all of the newsletters.   

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz wonders if he'll ever be added to the S&P 500. He'll settle for being one of the first 500 shoppers at the A&P. He does not own shares in any companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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