Stocks for the Long Run: Harley-Davidson vs. the S&P 500

Investing isn't easy. Even Warren Buffett counsels that most investors should invest in a low-cost index like the S&P 500. That way, "you'll be buying into a wonderful industry, which in effect is all of American industry," he says.

But there are, of course, companies whose long-term fortunes differ substantially from the index. In this series, we look at how individual stocks have performed against the broad S&P 500.

Step on up, Harley-Davidson .


Harley-Davidson shares have crushed the S&P 500 over the past quarter-century (note: this chart is in log scale):

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Source: S&P Capital IQ.

Since 1987, shares have returned an average of 22.9% a year, compared with 9.7% a year for the S&P (both include dividends). One thousand dollars invested in the S&P in 1987 would be worth $19,200 today. In Harley-Davidson, it'd be worth $728,300.

Dividends accounted for a lot of those gains. Compounded since 1987, dividends have made up 21% of Harley-Davidson's returns. For the S&P, dividends account for 39% of total returns.

Now have a look at how Harley-Davidson earnings compare with S&P 500 earnings:

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Source: S&P Capital IQ.

Big outperformance here, too. Since 1995, Harley-Davidson's earnings per share have increased by an average of 12.2% per year, compared with 6% a year for the broader index.

What's that meant for valuations? Harley-Davidson has traded for an average of 24 times earnings since 1987 -- the same as the broader S&P 500.

Through it all, shares have been incredible performers over the past quarter-century.

Of course, the important question is whether that will continue. That's where you come in. Our CAPS community currently ranks Harley-Davidson with a two-star rating (out of five). Care to disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, or add Harley-Davidson to My Watchlist.

Looking for more stock ideas? Fool analyst John Rosevear has put together a brand-new premium research report telling you what you need to know about General Motors and its turnaround. Click here now to get started.

The article Stocks for the Long Run: Harley-Davidson vs. the S&P 500 originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Morgan Housel and The Motley Fool have no positions in the stocks mentioned above. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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