Ten Biggest-Cap Stocks: Just Three Out-Perform the S&P 500

Five of the 10 largest companies in the YCharts database delivered total returns greater than the S&P 500’s 16% gain in 2012.

Apple (AAPL), China Mobil (CHL), PetroChina (PTR), Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) and Wal-Mart (WMT) were at the head of the class among the market cap leaders for the 2012 calendar year. But pull back for a wider-angle shot, and over the past five years 70% of the big boys failed to keep up with the index. Only Apple, Wal-Mart and IBM (IBM) posted five-year gains that beat the benchmark index, as seen in a stock chart.

AAPL Total Return Price Chart

AAPL Total Return Price data by YCharts

Apple has plenty of tech company in the Top 10: Google (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT) and IBM are among the largest market caps. Google gained 9.5% last year, Microsoft 6.1% and IBM 6%. Apple and IBM are the only five-year winners from that group:

AAPL Total Return Price Chart

AAPL Total Return Price data by YCharts

Just to be clear, we’re talking total return here—that includes the reinvestment of dividend yield. Yet even though Microsoft pays a dividend yield -- currently 3.3% -- investors still lost plenty over the past five years. (Google does not pay a dividend.) A recent Bloomberg article raised the prospect that Microsoft could be a “classic value trap.”

The YChart Stock Screener shows that more than 50 stocks with market caps of at least $10 billion match or exceed Microsoft’s current 3.3% dividend yield, including a few household names with far better returns.

MCD Total Return Price Chart

MCD Total Return Price data by YCharts

McDonald’s (MCD) current dividend yield is 3.4%, Kimberly-Clark (KMB) is at 3.5% and H.J. Heinz (HNZ) is at 3.6%. More important for the income-seekers is that there has also been underlying support for the stock price as well. That’s something Ballmer & Co. has lacked.

Carla Fried, a senior contributing editor at ycharts.com, has covered investing for more than 25 years. Her work appears in The New York Times, Bloomberg.com and Money Magazine. She can be reached at editor@ycharts.com.



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