The third-longest bull market in history turned 7 Wednesday, leaving investors to contemplate which stocks will lead it to its next birthday, if it survives that long.
Since March 9, 2009, the Dow Jones industrial average has risen 159 percent, the S&P 500 is up 193 percent and the Nasdaq is up 266 percent through Tuesday's close. Already this bull market is exceptional as the average of the last 12 bulls since World War II lasted 56 months with a 144 percent S&P 500 gain, according to S&P Capital IQ.
S&P Capital IQ strategist Sam Stovall also notes that five of the 12 bull markets had strong final-year returns that were higher than any non-first year rallies. So this bull could have quite an encore before its over.
"Like a light bulb that glows brightest just before burning itself out, we may find that this bull market has one more illuminating year left in it before extinguishing itself in a blaze of glory," Stovall wrote in a note to clients Monday.
On the assumption that this is the latter stage of the bull market, which investors believe is increasingly likely due its old age, Birinyi Associates ran the numbers on what performs the best in the last quartile of long bull markets.