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The 30 Greatest Stocks of All Time

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A finance professor made a startling discovery about the stock market: Over a 90-year span, 96% of all stocks collectively performed no better than risk-free 1-month Treasury bills. After analyzing the lifetime returns of 25,782 common stocks, Hendrik Bessembinder determined that just 1,000 of those stocks – or about 4% of the total – generated all of the nearly $32 trillion in wealth created by the stock market between July 1926 and December 2015. Even more striking, a mere 30 stocks accounted for one-third of that amount.

But before we get to our profiles of the 30 best-performing stocks, most of which are (or were) components of the Dow Jones industrial average, a word of caution. Accurately identifying the precious few “home run” stocks amid the many thousands of underachieving names is extremely difficult. It might be impossible. Your portfolio is more likely to suffer because you guessed wrong and failed to invest in the top long-term winners, says Bessembinder of Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business.

A better alternative to trying to find a needle in a haystack? To paraphrase Jack Bogle, the Vanguard founder and pioneer of index investing: Just buy the haystack. “The results reinforce the importance of diversification,” says Bessembinder, “and low-cost index funds are an excellent way to diversify broadly.”

Take a look at the 30 top-performing stocks since 1926.

Stocks are listed in order of the dollar amount of lifetime wealth creation, which includes reinvested dividends, from lowest to highest. Current stock data as of August 18, 2017. Analysts’ ratings provided by Zacks. For more details on Bessembinder’s study methodology and findings, download a copy of his paper, "Do Stocks Outperform Treasury Bills?"

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