stocksBuy-and-hold might not be dead but it sure doesn't work in a secular bear market. Anyone keeping tabs on his or her 401(k) knows all too well the deplorable returns generated by stocks over the past 10 years.

Take the S&P 500 ($INX), the most common broad benchmark for U.S. stock performance. If you invested $1,000 in the S&P 500 10 years ago, you would have only $850 today. And that's in nominal dollars, not factoring in inflation. Ouch.

Yet when it comes to truly outsized returns, nothing compares to the potential of individual stocks. The broader market may have been worse than dead money for the last decade, but plenty of issues have put up jaw-dropping returns. Sure, gold has been a great investment for a while now, rising about 400% over the last 10 years.

But that's chump change when compared to the top performing stocks.

Apple (AAPL) just celebrated the ninth anniversary of the iPod with its stock trading above $300 a share. A decade ago you could have had a share for $9.25. The stock is up more than 3,000% since then. In other words, if you had invested $1,000 in Apple in October 2000, your stake would now be worth more than $32,000.

Maybe this is just an exercise in wistful greed, but we screened the current S&P 500 for the top performing stocks of the last 10 years. We adjusted for dividends and set a minimum starting price of $1 a share. The result is sort of an all-star concentrated portfolio, heavy on energy, commodities and tech.

A $1,000 investment a decade ago would today be worth:

  1. Apple (AAPL) -- $32,280
  2. Southwestern Energy (SWN) -- $31,880
  3. Cliffs Natural Resources (CLF) -- $26,460
  4. Coach (COH) -- $21,320
  5. Ventas (VTR) -- $19,420
  6. Cognizant Technology (CTSH) -- $18,870
  7. CarMax (KMX) -- $15,080
  8. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (FCX) -- $14,630
  9. Cummins (CMI) -- $13,010
  10. Range Resources (RRC) -- $12,440

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Hi Stan and Ann

I think you can't go wrong with oil companies-whether it be the big boys or the the deep drillers-as much as our leaders would like to get away from oil to greener ways-we will be using oil for at least another hundred years. on another note any company that can cure ailments will be good as well. I'm always reading and asking questions thats how you find the next investment

February 26 2011 at 8:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Adam Cash

Didn't AAPL stock split twice in that 10 years....

November 10 2010 at 9:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The next decade will be different as the dollar may not be the dominating currency. The USA needs high wage jobs, but service jobs are not the answer. R&D & inventions are RIPPED off by countries without the resources for development; developers require high skill levels but lose competitively to low wage countries that have no EPA & do not honor patens, etc. Rich get richer & poor stay poor with much less room for middle class. It is best to be rich--so what is the next Apple? If I had money I would jump on it!

October 30 2010 at 8:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sam Das

Hind sight is 20/20

October 30 2010 at 4:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

aapl may still be best in 9 yrs

October 29 2010 at 9:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Your chances of having a return like this are only going to be better the next ten years. Sure some chicken little will argue for the end of the world. But it's like John Templeton always said "buy at the point of maximum pessimism". You can go back to any point in the bear markets of the past 100 years and the things that were said then are in vogue now: it't the same stuff. Sure, yeah I know, this time it will be different. That's the investor who sells every bear market bottom and buys every bull market top. No wonder he's bitter!

October 29 2010 at 9:23 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Anybody with a computer can go over the stock pages of a few years AGO and pick the top ten increases. The hard part is to peruse today's values and pick the top ten five or ten years hence.

October 29 2010 at 6:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Help, turn back the clock and put me "all in" with Apple.

October 29 2010 at 6:11 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply


October 29 2010 at 5:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

what about goog

October 29 2010 at 5:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply