2010 was an interesting year for investors, and for the most part, the big money was made in some of the more non-traditional places.
The following slides reveal the best investments in each category, from stocks and commodities to currencies and companies with the best cash flows. If you made some of these investments, you were on the right track. If not, lessons learned in 2010 could prove profitable in the year ahead. All numbers are as of market open on December 30th.
So, what were the best investments of the year? Click ahead to find out!
By Giovanny Moreano& Paul ToscanoPosted 30 Dec 2010
If your money was denominated in yen or Australian dollars, you would have been in luck this year. Among the major currencies, the yen was the best performing against the US dollar, up 12%. The yen also rose 19% against the euro in 2010.
In addition, the Australian dollar has appreciated 13% versus the US dollar, and is up 18.6% against the euro this year, mostly off strength from increased economic interaction with China. The Swiss franc was the third strongest currency this year, up 16% against the euro.
Cotton takes the prize as the best commodity, up 86% this year as it was the best performer on the CRB index of 19 commodities.
Palladium was up 94% but was not included because, like a handful of rare commodities, it is traded, but not to the degree of the major commodities.
The darling of investors this year was Netflix, with a meteoric rise in 2010 of 227%. Below are the best performing stocks in the S&P 500 and the Dow this year.
Top 3 in the S&P 500
Netflix (NFLX) +227%
F5 Networks (FFIV) +152%
Cummins (CMI) +140%
Top 3 in the Dow
Caterpillar (CAT) +65%
DuPont (DD) +49%
McDonald’s (MCD) +23%
The worst investments of the year? Apollo Group (APOL), which was down 37% and Micron Technology (MU), down 27%.
The S&P 500 gained approximately 13% for the year, but this growth was beat out by 19 out of 41 other indexes around the globe.
The best performing index hails from Estonia, in the form of the OMXT Tallinn Index, which was up 72%. Other high performing indexes were the Peru Lima General (+63%) and Lithuania’s OMX Vilnius Index (+56%).
In the S&P 500, 378 companies currently pay dividends and these companies generally attract different investors with different expectations for growth. Of the companies paying dividends, however, the top performers are anything but laggards.
The best performing dividend company was Cummins (CMI), with a dividend-adjusted return of 143% in 2010. It currently yields a 0.95% dividend. Other top performers include Huntington Bancshares (HBAN), up 92% with a 0.57% yield, and Quest Communications (Q) with 91% growth and a 4.2% yield.
The best performing IPO of the year was Molycorp (MCP), which benefited from investors interested in gaining exposure to U.S. production of rare earth elements. MCP is up 284% from the stock’s first day market close.
Other high performing IPOs*
HighSoft Technology (HSFT) +189%
RealPage (RP) +114%
*Since first closing price
Small and medium caps doubled returns for investors when compared with the largest US companies. Whereas the S&P 500 gained around 13% this year, small- and mid-cap indexes saw growth on the order of 25-27%.
Index performance and the top stocks in each are listed below.
S&P MidCap 400 Index, +25.6%
Top stock: Riverbed Technology (RVBD), up 208%
Russell 2,000, +26.4% (Small-cap)
Top stock: Wabash National (WNC), up 524%