Let’s be clear: The worst stock trading decision of the decade would have been to sit on the sidelines.
If you had invested $1,000 in an ETF tracking S&P 500 Index on Jan. 1, 2010—perhaps the simplest and most prudent decision, given the rise in passive investing in the 2010s—you’d be celebrating a return of $5,104 for your patience. Just place your cash into an index fund and then forget it for 10 years—this simple strategy would have produced far from meager returns.
Still, in a decade where FOMO became a widely acknowledged malady, there’s always this uncomfortable itch that needs to be scratched—the perverse knowledge of what we could have earned had we been gifted ten years ago a magic crystal ball that revealed what the ten best performing stocks of the decade would be trading at today.
Well, Fortune is here to scratch that itch. You may not be surprised to learn that Netflix was the best-performing U.S. stock, although some of the others on the Top-10 list may surprise you.
To make our list, we relied on Bespoke Investments’ figures for the S&P 1500 stocks that saw the biggest price gains during the past decade, excluding those that had market caps well below $100 million on Jan. 1, 2010. We then used Dividend Channel’s return calculator to factor in any dividends awarded along the way.
Here then are the ten stocks with the biggest returns of the 2010s, along with some key insights into why they rallied to such an extent. If you dare to scroll down, we’ll tally the total return you’d be enjoying (as of market close on Dec. 26) had you invested $1,000 in each one at the beginning of this now expiring decade.
1. Netflix (NFLX)
Return on $1,000 investment: $43,540
Netflix’s streaming subscribers rose more than twelvefold this decade, but who recalls the uphill battle that its DVD-by-mail service once faced against Blockbuster, the dead-and-buried king of video-store outlets? And remember how Netflix shareholders dumped the stock after that Qwikster fiasco?
No? Nevermind, none of that matters in dollar terms today, even if the stock is down 21% from the peak it reached two years ago. Netflix was the top performing stock for three years this decade: 2010, 2013, and 2015. It cut countless cable cords and forced Disney, Time Warner, and other media giants to revamp their businesses. And analysts still recommend Netflix as a buy today, perhaps because it faces no clear challenger—at least for now.
2. Domino’s Pizza (DPZ)
Return on $1,000 investment: $39,302
Once upon a time, Domino’s was as close as a carb-craving college student had to Grubhub or DoorDash. At first, Domino’s couldn’t adapt to the smartphone age, becoming something of a joke. Then CEO Patrick Doyle solicited user feedback to get consumers to stop laughing and start ordering again. It worked: Domino’s delivered better than any other retail stock this decade.
3. Lending Tree (TREE)
Return on $1,000 investment: $34,173
Consumer debt grew so much during the 2000s that a new breed of companies thrived in this past decade by connecting borrowers with lenders offering lower rates. Lending Tree was among the first big players in this emerging market. Most of its gains came, however, before big banks like Goldman, with its Marcus service, elbowed their way in.
4. Marketaxess Holdings (MKTX)
Return on $1,000 investment: $29,507
J.P. Morgan veteran Rick McVey formed Marketaxess after he saw a simple market need: an online exchange for corporate bonds. A decade or so after E*Trade and Ameritrade brought stock trading to digital platforms, bond trading finally started to catch up. Marketaxess rode that wave, and did so in a decade when interest rates veered lower, with demand for bonds rising.
5. Repligen (RGEN)
Return on $1,000 investment: $23,017
The past ten years has been a boom time for biotech companies, with hundreds of startups going public and Big Pharma paying for big acquisitions. Repligen shifted from drug discovery to focusing on supplying proteins and bio-engineered ingredients used by other biopharma companies. By selling tools for the biopharma Gold Rush, Repligen outperformed other biotechs.
6. Lithia Motors (LAD)
Return on $1,000 investment: $20,590
Lithia Motors has grown from a single car dealership in Ashland, Ore., to the third largest automotive retailer, behind Autonation and Penske Automotive. In addition to acquiring other dealerships, strong consumer demand for autos this decade has spurred its growth.
7. Broadcom (AVGO)
Return on $1,000 investment: $20,154
The past decade was a record for M&As, and Broadcom explains why. In the hyper-competitive chip sector, Broadcom bought $40 billion worth of companies, with the biggest deals coming since 2018. In a profit-sensitive industry like semiconductors, mergers are boring—only until the margins start to take off.
8. Abiomed (ABMD)
Return on $1,000 investment: $19,567
Here’s a reason not to measure your stock returns along some arbitrary timeframe. Yes, Abiomed is a top-ten stock performer since 2010, but it’s down 47% this year alone. In February, the Food and Drug Administration sent out a letter that seemed to raise concerns over the safety of Abiomed’s heart pumps. The FDA later declared the pumps safe, but Abiomed’s stock has continued its slump.
9. Trex (TREX)
Return on $1,000 investment: $18,070
Roger Wittenberg began mixing sawdust with shredded plastic bags to create a plastic that resembled wood but was more durable. Trex uses the material to make decks sold at Home Depot and Lowe’s. Their popularity has made Trex’s stock one of the decade’s strongest.
10. Fair Isaac (FICO)
Return on $1,000 investment: $17,749
Even before Facebook, the FICO score condensed our lives into a ball of data. The credit score determined whether you could, say, finance a home. It also probably made you feel like a number. Fair Isaac was one to profit from this. The digital-economy winners scored big by quietly taking power over our data. Fair Isaac was one of those victors.
Here’s the bottom line for FOMO enthusiasts: In total, $1,000 invested in each of these ten companies would have yielded a collective $265,669 in returns through capital gains and dividends.
But rather than wallowing in any regret of sitting these rallies out, it may make more sense to study their business models to spot future success stories.
More must-read stories from Fortune:
—2020 Crystal Ball: Predictions for the economy, politics, technology, etc.
—Why you actually may want to buy “bears” in a bull market
—5 CEO exits that sum up the memorable business year that was 2019
—The Decade in IPOs: What 6 offerings tell us about going public in the 2010s
—How blockchain will shake up the financial world
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