Here's a sobering thought: Had you invested $10,000 in the iShares S&P 100 Index (AMEX: OEF ) years ago, you'd have a little less than $9,000 today.
Over the past few years, America's corporate behemoths haven't performed as reliably as they used to. BusinessWeek recently called this newfound syndrome "blue-chip blues." That sounds about right. Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) , IBM (NYSE: IBM ) , and Citigroup (NYSE: C ) , for example -- with market caps of $105 billion, $119 billion, and $237 billion, respectively -- have taken investors to the woodsheddespite steady increases in sales and earnings.
What gives? Blame it on small caps. Investors have favored the tiny over the titanic in recent years. Witness VanguardSmall Cap Value (FUND: VISVX ) , which is up more than 70% since 2001. And it's usually those small fries that the market calls "forgotten." No more. Small caps have been on a torrid run.
But big is still beautiful
But thin won't be in forever. And there's plenty of circumstantial evidence to suggest that the super-sized among America's corporate crop will once again deliver outstanding returns. Take the market's recent volatility, for example. While fast movers have been falling like boulders in the ocean since May, giants such as Disney (NYSE: DIS ) have made modest gains.
Others, like Intel, are still falling. It's gotten so bad for the chip maker that one analyst called the stock "dead money," which in poker vernacular equals "sucker." Really? Doesn't Intel still have nearly $7 billion in net cash, new chips in the pipeline, and an active research and development team?
What a guru believes
It's perhaps more telling that some of the leading minds in investing are buying big stocks now. For example, investor tracker Guru Focus shows that Pfizer (NYSE: PFE ) is the most widely owned stock among gurus. Tyco (NYSE: TYC ) , a $55 billion conglomerate, is a close second.
My guess is experts such as Bill Nygren, David Dreman, and Martin Whitman have their eyes trained on the long term. History tells them that large caps always have their day in the sun, and that it usually comes after a prolonged rainstorm.
Witness the BusinessWeek story. Increase the holding period for the 17 losers the magazine profiles from five years to a decade, and the aggregate return improves to 141.9%, or 9.2% annually. Conversely, the Vanguard 500 Index (FUND: VFINX ) , which mirrors the broader stock market, has returned 8.1% annually since 1996.
Prepare to buy
That's why we Fools are at it again. Short-term underperformance aside, blue chips make a great long-term foundation for any portfolio. Recently, we released our second annual blue-chip report, 10 Monster Stocks to Anchor Your Portfolio, which features picks from David and Tom Gardner and several other top Fool analysts.
While large caps have been out of favor, remember that the biggest returns go to investors willing to buy when others are running for the hills. For America's corporate behemoths, that time is here. Click here to get your copy of our report now.
Fool contributor Tim Beyers says green is still his favorite color. Gee, we wonder why? Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what is in his portfolio by checking Tim's Fool profile.The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.