The Best and Worst Dow Stocks of 2021

The Dow Jones Industrial Average produced well-above-average returns in 2021. But some of its venerable blue chips did far better ... while others left shareholders feeling shortchanged.

Blue poker chips, representing blue-chip stocks
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shook off COVID-19, supply-chain snafus, inflationary pressures and myriad other worries to deliver an outstanding year in absolute terms. Indeed, the blue-chip bastion of Dow stocks generated a price gain of 19% through Dec. 30.

To get a sense of what an outlier 2021 was for the blue-chip average, the Dow's 30-year annualized price return comes to 8.7%.

Although the Dow as a whole powered through the pandemic, there's no question COVID-19 factored heavily in deciding the average's winners and losers in 2021, which we list in full down below. Naturally, the pandemic remains a key variable in the minds of Wall Street analysts as they rate the 30 Dow Jones stocks' prospects for 2022.

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Either way, many of this year's best Dow stocks are expected to continue their market-beating ways in the new year.

Take Home Depot (HD, $409.94) and Microsoft (MSFT, $339.32), for example. The Dow's top stocks of 2021 – each up by more than half – are forecast to put up more big gains in the year ahead thanks to a continuation of current trends.

In HD's case, the pandemic led to changes in consumer consumption patterns. Folks stuck at home decided to feather their nests, embrace do-it-yourself (DIY) projects and invest newfound discretionary income into their dwellings. The red-hot housing market also remains a tailwind at HD's back.

MSFT, meanwhile, has become a king of cloud-based services. The rise of remote work accelerated companies' embrace of Microsoft products such as Azure and Office 365. Looking ahead, analysts say enterprise customers are still in the early innings of their digital transformations.

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On the other side of the ledger, analysts say some of this year's losers are set to become 2022's winners. Look no farther than Walt Disney (DIS, $155.93) for an example.

Disney was the Dow's worst stock in 2021, losing almost 14%. The media and entertainment conglomerate was essentially undone by the emergence of the Delta and Omicron variants of COVID-19. Anything that creates uncertainty around the health of Disney's all-important theme parks and resorts – not to mention its filmed entertainment business – is bad for DIS shareholders.

As much of a bummer as 2021 was for DIS, the Street gives shares a consensus recommendation of Buy, with fairly high conviction to boot. The pandemic can't last forever, the thinking goes, and shares look cheap.

Here's hoping, anyway.

Without further ado, have a look at how all 30 Dow stocks fared in 2021 in the table below:

A chart of Dow stock performance in 2021

(Image credit: S&P Global Market Intelligence)
Dan Burrows
Senior Investing Writer,

Dan Burrows is Kiplinger's senior investing writer, having joined the august publication full time in 2016.

A long-time financial journalist, Dan is a veteran of SmartMoney, MarketWatch, CBS MoneyWatch, InvestorPlace and DailyFinance. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Consumer Reports, Senior Executive and Boston magazine, and his stories have appeared in the New York Daily News, the San Jose Mercury News and Investor's Business Daily, among other publications. As a senior writer at AOL's DailyFinance, Dan reported market news from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and hosted a weekly video segment on equities.

Once upon a time – before his days as a financial reporter and assistant financial editor at legendary fashion trade paper Women's Wear Daily – Dan worked for Spy magazine, scribbled away at Time Inc. and contributed to Maxim magazine back when lad mags were a thing. He's also written for Esquire magazine's Dubious Achievements Awards.

In his current role at Kiplinger, Dan writes about equities, fixed income, currencies, commodities, funds, macroeconomics, demographics, real estate, cost of living indexes and more.

Dan holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a master's degree from Columbia University.

Disclosure: Dan does not trade stocks or other securities. Rather, he dollar-cost averages into cheap funds and index funds and holds them forever in tax-advantaged accounts.