If you followed the old adage and sold stocks in May, you're probably feeling pretty good right now. But even when the market suffers a long string of declines, as we've seen over the past six weeks, you'll still find pockets of strength if you look hard enough.
Stocks on the skids
Seasonal indicators aren't perfect, but occasionally, they seem to nail market moves to a T. Right now, that's the situation investors face with the "sell in May" indicator, as the S&P 500 hit a three-year closing high on the last trading day of April and hasn't been able to match that level since.
Now, the market has seen six straight weeks of declines, and many are fearful about the prospects for the coming weeks as well. With economic reports starting to come in confirming that the economy was sluggish in May following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami as well as gasoline prices that moved above $4 per gallon in many areas of the country, it may not be long before people start worrying about the dreaded double-dip recession rearing its ugly head again.
Gimme a winner
Big, fast market drops are scary things, especially if you're just getting started with your investing. But the mistake many beginning investors make is to assume that just because the Dow or S&P are falling, every single one of their stocks must have lost value.
Even in a sharp downturn like we've seen lately, some stocks have gone up. Here are the ones that have gone up the most since the market peaked at the end of April:
Return Since Apr. 29
|Forest Labs (NYSE: FRX )
|Macy's (NYSE: M )
|Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS )
|Dean Foods (NYSE: DF )
|Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX )
|FirstEnergy (NYSE: FE )
|Apollo Group (Nasdaq: APOL )
Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard and Poor's.
Of course, with short-term movements, a lot of jumps can be news-driven. Macy's, for instance, saw its quarterly profit jump six-fold, leading the company to double its dividend. Apollo got the benefit of favorable regulations of for-profit educators, while Dean Foods beat estimates and announced an upbeat future in its quarterly guidance. And Forest Labs might have seen support from activist investor Carl Icahn, who disclosed today that he had accumulated a 6.5% stake in the company.
But other times, companies that thumb their noses at a falling market are the ones with the best long-term prospects. Netflix has confounded skeptics for years, finding ways to continue growing despite the challenges of obtaining content and moving to a streaming model in an environment in which consumers are starting to face limitations on Internet access for large downloads. Excitement about the future of gaming given the rise of social media has helped lift Electronic Arts and its peers. And FirstEnergy is following a major trend that should bring success in the long run: a growing demand for energy that will make generating and delivering electricity more important.
If you own any of these stocks, then you have clear reason to celebrate. Seeing your stocks follow through on their potential is always a good sign. On the other hand, if you don't see your stocks on this list because they've fallen over the past six weeks, it doesn't mean that you bought losers that you should dump right away. Just as these winners have seen good news come their way since early May, you should expect things to work out for your stocks if the reasons that you picked them are still valid.
Anytime you have a winner, it's good news. But owning a winning stock in a losing market means so much more. It validates the choices you've made and should give you confidence that your investing strategy is working exactly the way you want it to.
If you like the idea of having more winners in your portfolio, take a look at these five stocks. The Motley Fool bought them all, and our analysts think they're good long-term prospects.