Each year, InvestorPlace offers up a list of its 10 best stocks to buy and hold from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 with the hopes of market-beating, tax-efficient gains for our readers.
Four of our 10 best stocks are up more than 20% each, with the winner up an amazing 179% year-to-date in 2014!
Furthermore, there aren’t that many losers — with only one single position in the red, and only three positions among 2014’s best stocks to buy lagging the market’s 7% annual gains thus far.
So what are these high-flying picks, and how are they looking as we enter the final three months of the year? Let’s take a look, starting with the biggest winners of the bunch:
Best Stocks for 2014 – #1, Emerge Energy Services (EMES)
Sector: Energy services
Investor: Jon Markman
YTD Returns: 179%
One of the biggest success stories of the last few years is the boom in hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” as a way to access natural gas in America.
Emerge Energy Services (EMES) is a big player in fracking services, and thus has ridden the industry to tremendous success in 2014. The stock has shown signs of slowing down after its big move higher to start the year, with a drop of about 20% in the last month, but that could simply be a buying opportunity for new investors.
Best Stocks for 2014 – #2, Tesla Motors (TSLA)
Investor: Kyle Woodley
YTD Returns: 63%
Tesla Motors (TSLA) is the momentum stock that the bears love to hate thanks to its relatively high valuation. But regardless of the bubble talk, TSLA stock continues to hang tough and is sitting on an impressive gain of more than 60% year-to-date.
Admittedly, shares have rolled back about 10% in the past month, but it’s important to note that the stock is still up strongly — and we are approaching another very important earnings report in about a month that could see another move higher for Tesla stock.
Best Stocks for 2014 – #3, FleetCor Technologies (FLT)
Sector: Business Services
Investor: Louis Navellier
YTD Returns: 21%
FleetCor (FLT) is a pretty boring stock, providing fleet services to businesses so employees can fuel up company cars or pay for business travel expenses easily. But thanks to its well-run operations and the cyclical recovery we are seeing in business spending, FLT stock has enjoyed a very nice run in 2014. Shares are up about 20% year-to-date, and show no sign of slowing down.
Best Stocks for 2014 – #4, Fortegra Financial (FRF)
Investor: Hilary Kramer
YTD Return: 20%
Fortegra Financial (FRF) is technically not an option to new money anymore, but those who bought in earlier this year have enjoyed 20% gains year-to-date in this insurance stock. A buyout from Tiptree Financial at $10 per share in August pushed shares to these levels, where they’ve stayed as the agreement gets finalized.
Best Stocks for 2014 – #5, Banco Santander (SAN)
Investor: Bryan Perry
YTD Return: 12%
Bryan Perry identified Spain-based Banco Santander (SAN) as one of the best options for 2014 — and it has delivered market-beating returns thanks to an improving balance sheet and exposure to Latin America where there’s still some growth.
However, recently announced measures by the European Central Bank could threaten SAN’s capital ratios, which of course puts the company’s dividend at risk of at least a cut. Perry’s advice? Exit and take the company’s profits through Q3.
Best Stocks for 2014 – #6, Financial SPDR (XLF)
Sector: Financials ETF
Investors: John Jagerson and Wade Hansen
YTD Return: 7%
Bank stocks broadly have had a pretty good 2014 thanks to the hopes of a cyclical recovery for business lending as the economy improves, and plans for an interest-rate hike at the Fed expanding the net interest margin on loans.
That has added up to some good performance among the companies that make up the Financial SPDR (XLF).
Best Stocks for 2014 – #7, MTN Group (MTNOY)
Investor: Charles Sizemore
YTD Returns: 7%
Africa is one of the few remaining markets in the world that truly has parabolic growth potential. And one of the biggest tools of growth in the region is the mobile phone, connecting the region in a digital age and providing economic opportunities such as banking and e-commerce.
That makes MTN Group (MTNOY) one of the best long-term growth plays in the region, as the telecom company connects even remote and undeveloped regions of Africa via its mobile network.
Best Stocks for 2014 – #8, Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIG)
Sector: Dividend Fund
Investor: Brendan Conway
YTD Returns: 4%
Dividend investing is slow and steady, and the Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIG) has proven that approach with its large-cap dividend payers throwing off steady but unimpressive gains year-to-date.
A fund like VIG may never outperform small-cap growth stocks, but in a choppy market when uncertainty rules, it could be very handy to invest in this long-term income play.
Best Stocks for 2014 – #9, Citigroup (C)
Investor: Greg Harmon
YTD Returns: Flat
Well, some banks have had a standout year… but megacap Citigroup (C) hasn’t had a very good run. After failing the Federal Reserve’s “stress test” in spring and failing to provide a boost to its meager penny-per-share dividend, Citi stock has been wandering in the wilderness.
Of course, C stock is up about 11% in the past month from summer lows, so perhaps Q4 could see a strong finish for this banking giant.
Best Stocks for 2014 – #10, ProShares Short Emerging Markets ETF (EUM)
Sector: Emerging-Markets Fund
Investor: Anthony Mirhaydari
YTD Returns: -1%
Well, if you doubted the rally of 2013 then the ProShares Short MSCI Emerging markets ETF (EUM) would have seemed like a wise investment to start the year. However, as the global economy has looked better than expected, this inverse fund has actually done pretty poorly and is currently in the red year-to-date.
As an “inverse fund,” the EUM actually goes up when emerging markets go down — so what’s good news for Latin America and Asia has actually been bad news for this ETF.
Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com and the author of The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP.