With the Dow Jones Industrial Average still trading in nosebleed territory above 21,000 points, it's easy to find stocks that are being lifted by the rising tide. Yet some companies have risen atop the wave, doubling, tripling, and even quadrupling in value this year.
Three stocks that have made such gains in the space of just the first six months of 2017 are AgroFresh Solutions (AGFS), Esperion Therapeutics (ESPR -0.34%), and Straight Path Communications (NYSEMKT: STRP). Each would have taken a $7,000 investment and turned it into at least $18,000 or as much as $37,000. Read on to find out how.
AgroFresh Solutions (up 171%)
While there's been a significant marketing effort in the grocery segment to make so-called ugly fruits and vegetables more acceptable to consumers, the overwhelming majority of shoppers still want their produce looking perfect. AgroFresh Solutions is in the business of meeting those expectations. Its freshness-protection technology maintains the firmness, texture, and appearance of fruit during storage and transport so when it's laid out at the grocery store, it exhibits all the visual traits and qualities customers seek.
Apples, though, are AgroFresh's main business and when harvest growth forecasts were dramatically reduced from 11% down to 3% last year it helped cause third quarter sales and earnings to fall. It also didn't help it was seeing increased competition of its main SmartFresh product and lower than expected sales of pre-harvest technology, Harvest. The combination of factors caused AgroFresh stock to plunge 50%.
But the freshness technology company has bounced back, and after posting surprisingly strong first-quarter results in early May, the stock surged once more. Shares are up 77% over the last three months and are 171% higher since the start of the year. While the previous plunge makes its more recent performance look that much better -- over the past 12 months shares are up "only" 43% -- it's a performance that still outperforms the broad market index and so far in 2017, a $7,000 investment in AgroFresh is one that's now worth more than $18,900.
Esperion Therapeutics (up 242%)
Cholesterol-lowering statins are the most-prescribed drugs in the world, making them major profit centers for pharmaceuticals like Pfizer (PFE -0.63%) biotech Esperion Therapeutics is betting its bempedoic acid can be the next big thing in the fight against high cholesterol. Bempedoic acid works alongside statins in patients who don't respond well to those drugs alone.
The team at Esperion has some experience in this area: The company is being led by the man who helped develop Lipitor, the best-selling cholesterol-lowering drug ever. Earlier this year, Esperion announced the FDA was considering its application for phase 3 clinical trials, which helped send its stock soaring. In phase 2 trials, adding bempedoic acid to statin therapy led to cholesterol levels that were an additional 20% lower.
While biotechs and pharmaceuticals often see drugs display apparent success early, then fail in late stage trials, investors are betting Esperion Therapeutics has a winner on its hands. Shares are up 242% so far this year, a result of those earlier announcements -- a bounce that would have been good enough to turn $7,000 into more than $23,900 in just six months.
Straight Path Communications (up 431%)
It's amazing what a bidding war can do for your stock, something investors in Straight Path Communications were lucky enough to find out after Verizon and AT&T locked horns over the holder of valuable 5G telecom spectrum.
After the FCC told Straight Path not to hoard its spectrum, the tiny telecom put itself up for bid, and the two industry titans began duking it out. Verizon eventually won the fight with a $3.1 billion offer. It didn't hurt that Straight Path apparently had one of the few portfolios out there in the 39 gigahertz range that 5G service will need.
While its share price soared from $15 a share to more than $235 at one point in the past year, the value of Straight Path's assets finally settled at $180 a share. Its net 431% gain in 2017 means investors who had $7,000 sunk into the tiny telecom on Jan. 1 now find themselves sitting on an investment worth $37,157.