The past year has been a historic one for the stock market, and major market benchmarks remain near their record highs. Yet even though the broader indexes have performed well, you'll never see the Dow or its counterparts double in the span of a single year. With individual stocks, however, those short-term returns are indeed possible, and you could have doubled your money with CSX (NASDAQ:CSX), MercadoLibre (NASDAQ:MELI), or Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) if you'd bought them just a year ago. Let's take a closer look at these stocks and find out why they've done so well.
CSX picks up speed
The railroad industry has seen tough times in recent years, and CSX has been one of the hardest-hit railroads. CSX has traditionally concentrated on the Eastern U.S., and it has gotten more than its fair share of revenue from the coal industry. That was great when coal was in high demand, but cheap natural gas has largely displaced coal for traditional customers like electric utilities.
As you can see, most of CSX's gains came after the presidential election in November. The victory of Donald Trump pointed to the possibility of a renewal of interest in the coal industry, and that could spur a return to growth for CSX's most difficult business segment. At the same time, other efforts to improve infrastructure and drive industrial production domestically could have the positive impact of boosting volume and easing transport by rail. Investors hope that CSX can make good on the promise that the White House seems to have offered the railroad.
MercadoLibre rises on a Latin American comeback
The Latin American economy was one of the biggest casualties of the commodities bust over the past couple of years, and that hurt prospects for e-commerce giant MercadoLibre. The online marketplace provider has followed a similar path as some of its peers in the U.S., building up not only the apparatus for facilitating transactions between third parties but also providing payment systems, delivery services, and financing options for purchasers and sellers.
Over the past year, recessionary conditions in Brazil and other key economies in the region have started to run their course, and most economists are hopeful that the local economies there have turned the corner. That should boost MercadoLibre's prospects, especially as it works more closely with partners to build up a broader base of sellers and customers alike. If Latin America keeps thriving, then MercadoLibre will be in a great position to benefit from a rising consumer class throughout the region.
Bank of America is back!
Finally, banking giant Bank of America has produced eye-popping returns over the past year, doubling since February 2016. The company has lagged behind many of its peers in recovering from the financial crisis, but the most recent financial rally has even lifted its shares higher.
As with CSX, the Trump election victory gave Bank of America a big boost. Investors quickly realized that the new administration would likely take steps to make it easier for big financial institutions to do business with less regulation, and an early executive order signaled efforts to defang the Dodd-Frank banking laws that were adopted in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Now, the prospect of rising interest rates is also supporting Bank of America, and many finally believe that the banking giant could be in a position to regain more of its lost ground from the housing bust.
Investors can't count on finding stocks that can double in such a short period of time, and these companies have had noteworthy support in boosting their shares. Yet all three of these stocks could enjoy further gains if the trends that have pushed them higher so far continue into the future.