Sirius XM Holdings (NASDAQ:SIRI) still is a winner in 2018. Shares of the satellite-radio monopoly are trading nearly 14% higher year to date, a relative victory when pitted against so many media stocks that are underwater this year. However, Sirius XM investors have seen better days.

The stock was up 44% in 2018 when it hit all-time highs in June, but Sirius XM shares have slumped in the second half of this year. General market weakness and Wall Street's poor reaction to Sirius XM's Pandora (NYSE:P) acquisition announcement have eaten into most of its big gains. A few more rough trading days as the final weeks of 2018 play out could find the stock in negative territory for the year, something that investors haven't seen here since 2008.

Patrick Stewart putting his leg on Hugh Jackman's lap during a Sirius XM Town Hall interview.

Image source: Sirius XM Holdings.

Anatomy of a winning streak

The biggest talking point on low-priced stocks is that they're volatile, but you wouldn't know that if you were judging Sirius XM on an annual basis. It's rattled off nine-consecutive years of dividend-adjusted stock gains and is still clinging to gains that would stretch that streak to 10 next month.

  • 2009: Up 383.3%
  • 2010: 170.7%
  • 2011: 12.1%
  • 2012: 58.5%
  • 2013: 22.9%
  • 2014: 0.3%
  • 2015: 16.3%
  • 2016: 9.5%
  • 2017: 21.5%
  • 2018: 13.9% (so far)

Stringing together a few years of gains is no easy feat for any stock, much less a run by a company that began the streak as a speculative penny stock on the brink of bankruptcy. The growth has been as steady as it's been unspectacular in recent years as the company is working on its sixth-consecutive year of top-line growth clocking in below 23%. 

Sirius XM's fundamentals also have matched the slowing improvement of the stock. Revenue growth slowed to 6% in its latest quarter, though earnings grew nearly four times faster -- notching the largest organic per-share profit in its history. Sirius XM now has more than 33 million subscribers, limiting its top-line gains beyond finding new ways to get its slow-growing audience to pay more. Pandora seems like a logical strategic move to boost average revenue per user, even if the market is unimpressed with the pending purchase.

Pandora gives Sirius XM a strong digital product with a recognized brand that will enhance the value of its own streaming service. Sirius XM's streaming offering hasn't gained the same kind of traction as its bread-and-butter satellite radio product, arming the combined companies with a good shot at generating incremental revenue. Combining the two ad-selling departments should also broaden the client base. The stock has fallen since the deal was announced two months ago, but it doesn't make the transaction a loser. 

Sirius XM won't report financial results until January, so any big moves in the stock between now and the end of this year will likely be dictated by the general market's direction and any new Pandora milestones or obstacles. It's still on track to stretch one of the market's most unlikely winning streaks to 10 years of gains, but that run -- like the market itself -- is on shaky ground. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.