It was a strong first quarter for the equity markets. The S&P 500 has risen 14% including dividends through the first three months of 2019, and despite a sluggish second half last year, it has climbed nearly 10% over the past 12 months. Some stocks have naturally fared even better.
Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG 1.56%), New Age Beverages (NBEV 1.20%), and Roku (ROKU 2.14%) have all more than doubled over the past year. Let's dive into why these three stocks are among the market's biggest winners over the previous 12 months.
Chipotle -- 120%
The eatery that put "fast casual" on the map is living up to the first half of that niche moniker these days. Chipotle stock has certainly moved "fast," more than doubling over the past year, and nearly tripling since hitting rock bottom at $247.52 nearly 14 months ago.
Sales are turning around since the health-scare hits that rattled the chain starting in late 2015. Comparable-restaurant sales rose 4% last year, and that's stacked on top of a better than 6% bounce for unit-level sales in 2017. The recovery on the bottom line has taken a little longer to come around. We may never hit the kind of margins the chain was scoring when it was in peak form just before the food-borne illness outbreaks began scaring away customers in late 2015, but that's Chipotle's focus now that it has returned to positive comps. Analysts see earnings growing faster than sales through the next couple of years, and seeing the good times roll again at the iconic burrito roller is getting investors excited.
New Age Beverages -- Up 117%
The push for the legalization of marijuana -- or at least some cannabis components -- has sent investors scrambling into only a handful of stocks. The once-fledgling New Age Beverages became the beneficiary of speculator attention in September after announcing that it would be introducing CBD-infused beverages to its product lines, which already included ready-to-drink coffees and teas, energy drinks, and other functional beverages.
There was no shortage of buzz for the stock, and New Age Beverages made a really smart move that would shelter it from being a flash in the pan if pot stocks should ever lose favor with investors again, like they did near the end of 2018. New Age Beverages took advantage of its buoyant shares and easier access to financing to strike a cash-and-stock deal to acquire Morinda, the company behind Tahitian Noni Juice. The deal dramatically boosted the top line for New Age Beverages, but perhaps more importantly, it expanded its retail footprint worldwide.
Roku -- Up 107%
We're streaming video more than ever these days, and Roku is there to seamlessly hook us up on the biggest screens in the house. Roku is a pioneer in devices folks use to stream through their televisions, and it has become a leader in the operating system that achieves the same goal in a growing number of smart televisions.
There were 27.1 million active accounts on Roku's platform in the first quarter, a 40% surge over the past year. More importantly for investors, usage trends and average revenue per user are also on the rise. There are even more big-name premium video services launching in the coming months, and while that will mean more competition for the existing services, it will be a gold mine for the leading operating system that aggregates all of the providers on their way to your living-room TV.