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10 long-time loser stocks roaring back

Three years is a long time to sit around on dead money while everyone else is getting rich from stocks. But now investors are starting to score from stocks springing back from a long period of suffering.

And talk about miraculous comebacks: 10 stocks in the Standard & Poor's 500, including automaker Ford, aluminum maker Alcoa and glass maker Corning this year have rocketed back by the same percentage or more than they lost during the three years coming into 2014, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from S&P Capital IQ.

The Alcoa logo is shown in the lobby of Alcoa's headquarters in Pittsburgh.
Gene Puskar | AP Photo
The Alcoa logo is shown in the lobby of Alcoa's headquarters in Pittsburgh.

These powerful recoveries show that even some companies that were left behind during the market's rally are finally shaking off their funks. And while most are just undoing the damage from the years of underperformance to get back to where they were, they certainly have momentum now that many long-term investors' losses have been repaired.

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Alcoa investors must be relishing the comeback more than most. These investors were tortured in the previous three years with subpar returns. The stock came into 2014 with a three-year 31% decline. And Alcoa even suffered the indignity of being tossed out of the Dow Jones industrial average last year. But guess what? The shares are up 60% this year. The stock chart is so pretty — it looks like a giant grin — making it hard to not smile just looking at it.

The comeback at Ford hasn't been as flashy as the one at Alcoa, but it's still quite a tale. Shares of the automaker entered 2014 with a three-year decline of 8%. But while analysts are calling for the company's adjusted profit to fall 19% this year, investors saw value. Shares of the automaker are up 15.2% this year, erasing the three-year loss coming into the year. Ford's chart isn't as beautiful as Alcoa's, but it still shows the bounceback's intensity. Investors will have plenty to mull over Thursday after Ford reports quarterly results.

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All but one of the 10 stocks, energy firm Newfield Exploration, have completely undone the damage to their stocks in three years between 2011 and 2013. Newfield has a bigger hole to dig out of, but it's on its way. The stock came into 2014 down 66% over the past three years. That's such a massive decline that even the stock's 82% gain this year isn't enough to get it back to break even due to the law of large numbers. Newfield's stock needs to gain another 60% before undoing the damage. But, it's a start. The chart shows that while Newfield is bouncing, there's more to be done before long-term investors feel better.

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We'll see if there's more to these bouncebacks, or if it's just temporary. S&P Capital IQ gives three of the stocks its "4″ rating, which means "buy" (see chart below). With that said, though, six of the stocks get S&P Capital IQ's "hold" rating and one gets a strong "sell" (Alcoa). But these stocks have had one of those years that defies the critics, we'll see if there's more to their comeback stories.

Company Symbol 3-yr decline Gain this year S&P Cap. IQ STARS
Newfield Expl. NFX -65.80% 82.40% 3
Alcoa AA -30.90% 60.40% 1
Nabors Inds. NBR -27.60% 72.50% 3
Devon Energy DVN -21.20% 26.90% 4
Edwards Lifesciences EW -18.70% 30.10% 3
PG&E PCG -15.80% 17% 4
Jabil Circuit JBL -13.20% 20.40% 3
Entergy ETR -10.70% 19.60% 3
Ford Motor F -8.10% 15.20% 4
Corning GLW -7.80% 24.50% 3
S&P Capital IQ, USA Today research

— By Matt Krantz, USA Today

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