Stocks have had an incredible run of success over the past five years, with substantial gains for major market benchmarks like the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500. Yet now that the market has hit some choppiness to start 2018, some investors are focusing more squarely on individual stocks that they believe can thrive even if the overall market suffers a correction.
Gains of 65% to 70% for the broader market since 2013 are impressive, but a handful of stocks have managed to post much stronger gains. In particular, Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), and Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) have all climbed 500% or more, and there are many reasons to believe that the stocks could have a lot further to go.
Amazon has given investors powerful long-term returns, with the stock's 535% gain since mid-2013 being just the latest part of an impressive rise that has made the company one of the most successful stocks in the market over the past 15 years. From its modest roots as an online bookstore, Amazon has pivoted not just to extend its retail reach across just about the entire universe of available goods but also to provide a host of nonretail services. Cloud computing, streaming video, and technological advances like the Kindle reader and Echo smart speakers have given Amazon exposure to some of the highest-growth areas of the tech sector. Acquisitions like the Whole Foods purchase have extended Amazon's reach into the physical-store world, and use of its newly acquired real estate opens up some new opportunities for the e-commerce giant to improve distribution efficiency.
Some investors fear that Amazon might be reaching its peak. But the company still has a number of growth avenues still open, including international expansion and further development of cutting-edge technology. In those areas, Amazon faces extensive competition, and traditional retailers have also fought back to embrace the e-commerce revolution and find ways to get their once-loyal customers to shop with them again. Add to that Amazon's past ability to come up with needs that its users didn't even realize they had, and there should be plenty more room for the tech giant to grow in the years to come.
Facebook's gains over the past five years have been more impressive even than Amazon's, with the social media giant posting a return of almost 750% over that time frame. Much of that rise came after a disappointing debut for Facebook in the public stock market, with its shares plunging after its 2012 initial public offering amid worries about the service's viability as the tech industry shifted from its previous desktop focus toward mobile devices. Yet Facebook came up with growth strategies extremely well, with purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp having received criticism at the times they were made yet proving to be highly successful over the ensuing years. A well-executed transition toward a viable version of the service for mobile devices kept Facebook relevant even as mobile proliferated, and a focus on optimizing its ability to offer targeted digital advertising to its multi-billion member user base continues to pay off well for the company.
Recent challenges have made a dent in Facebook's share price recently, including the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the European Union's enactment of its General Data Protection Regulations to support user privacy. Some investors also fear that the advertising market might be approaching the saturation point, limiting Facebook's potential future growth, and that generational shifts might make Facebook less attractive to younger users. Yet by embracing Instagram, Facebook has shown that it can develop and promote other services to meet users' needs even if its namesake service ceases to have the appeal it initially had. That will be critical in driving future share-price gains.
Netflix tops this list of high-performing stocks, posting gains of well over 1,000% since mid-2013. The streaming video giant has successfully reinvented itself over its longer history, pivoting away from the dying DVD-rental business and instead embracing technological advances that made it possible for viewers to watch their preferred entertainment options more quickly and efficiently. Having made huge inroads in the U.S. market, Netflix then turned its attention overseas, where it found an equally hungry audience for its content and distribution services.
One of Netflix's biggest challenges has been obtaining high-quality content to show to its viewers. Although the streaming service has made successful partnership deals with many outside content providers, Netflix also found it worthwhile to start working on developing its own original content. That's been an expensive up-front proposition, but it has also created cost savings on the back end that should keep paying off for decades to come. Critical acclaim has also shown that the upstart could successfully carve out a niche despite Hollywood's long reign over the movie and television production arena.
Even with Netflix having raised subscription prices on a fairly regular basis, its value proposition is still a lot more attractive than traditional cable television. As more people cut the cord, attractive price points should give Netflix a competitive advantage that it can use as leverage well into the future, producing further potential share gains in the years to come.
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Stocks that can produce 500% returns in just five years are few and far between. But even if they might not continue to rise at the same rate they have in the past, Netflix, Facebook, and Amazon.com all have plenty of positive prospects that should support their businesses into the future. That makes these high-flying stocks still worth a look for new investors.
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Dan Caplinger has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Facebook, and Netflix. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.