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The 50 Best 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 25,967 common stocks, Hendrik Bessembinder determined that just 1,092 of those stocks -- or about 4% of the total -- generated all of the $34.8 trillion in wealth created for shareholders by the stock market between July 1926 and December 2016. Even more striking, a mere 50 stocks accounted for well over one-third (39.3%) of that amount.

But before we get to our profiles of the 50 best-performing stocks of all time, many 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.

SEE ALSO: 50 Dividend Stocks You Can Count On in 2018 and Beyond

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 50 best stocks since 1926.

The 50 stocks are listed in reverse order of the dollar amount of lifetime wealth creation, which includes reinvested dividends. Current stock data as of Jan. 12. 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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