Many aggressive investors chase high-flying stocks that have the potential to double or even triple their money in short order.
Given the fact that the bear market lows were in March of 2009, however, the last 5 years have been incredibly kind to many stocks. After all, the S&P 500 is up about 110% since September 2009 — so investors shouldn’t be too proud about their ability to pick a doubler in that time frame.
But for those lucky few who managed to catch lightning in a bottle, however there have been a some select investments that have jumped fifteen-fold or more in the last five years — blowing away even the impressive returns of the S&P 500 in the last five years.
So what are these amazing investments, and what is their outlook in 2014? Let’s take a look.
#10 — Flotek Industries (FTK)
Sector: Energy services
Market Cap: $1.4 billion
5-Year Return: 1,535%
12-Month Return: 23%
One of the leading energy service stocks, Flotek (FTK) offers drilling support to oil and gas companies — including those participating in the fracking boom. Some of its services and tools are patent-protected, leading to strong demand at home, and recent expansion overseas into nations like Poland and Turkey bode well for future growth. Given the strong performance lately, it’s possible this impressive outperformance could keep up for some time.
#9 — Handy & Harman (HNH)
Market Cap: $337 million
5-Year Return: 1535%
12-Month Return: 16%
Handy & Harman (HNH) is a diversified manufacturer that makes tubing, blades and a host of other industrial products. The company went public in 2008 — just in time for the market meltdown — and was battered badly thanks to its cyclical businesses. But since late 2010, HNH has come roaring back thanks to significant restructuring over the recession and stabilization in earnings. This small-cap manufacturer has had big momentum lately as a result, though admittedly is quite volatile.
#8 — Taro Pharmaceutical Industries (TARO)
Market Cap: $6.7 billion
5-Year Return: 1,555%
12-Month Return: 120%
Taro Pharmaceutical Industries (TARO) is a drug company that has seen big success in the last few years. But a big difference is that Taro has made big bucks on over-the-counter medications as well as supplying the active ingredients to other healthcare companies that can be used in their creams, capsules and other products. TARO has seen revenue and earnings soar in recent years, and the stock shows no signs of slowing down.
#7 — Nexstar Broadcasting Group (NXST)
Market Cap: $1.4 billion
5-Year Return: 1630%
12-Month Return: 33%
Nexstar Broadcasting Group (NXST) is a mid-cap broadcaster that operates television stations in 32 markets around the U.S. Much of the gains in NXST have come very recently — including a 330% pop since January 2013. Local broadcasters have been on a tear despite the talk about a shift to online content, in large part because their biggest asset is the band of telecommunications spectrum they own on the airwaves. Throw in a decent ad recovery boosting the bottom line, and this TV bet is hardly an old relic — it looks much more like a high-flier with decent upside.
#6 — 3D Systems (DDD)
Market Cap: $5.7 billion
5-Year Return: 1,730%
12-Month Return: 0%
Though 3D printing stocks like 3D Systems (DDD) have admittedly flamed out in the last year as the sector ran out of momentum, it’s undeniable that this technology and the associated companies are here to stay. In fact, the company recorded just $150 million in revenue fiscal 2010 but is on track for more than $600 million in FY2014. Now that the froth is gone, 3D Systems stock may still have room to run.
#5 — Jazz Pharmaceuticals (JAZZ)
Market Cap: $10.1 billion
5-Year Return: 1,761%
12-Month Return: 95%
Jazz Pharmaceuticals (JAZZ) is one of those breakout drug companies that figures out how to develop effective treatments for conditions that haven’t found a cure, and sees explosive success as a result. It’s drugs include treatments for rare diseases including fibromyalgia, schizophrenia and certain kinds of cancer. Niche drugs naturally don’t have a huge patient pool; however, when you are the only option for many patients and these drugs need to be taken for prolonged periods of time, it results in big revenue for the drugmaker nevertheless.
#4 — China HGS Real Estate (HGSH)
Sector: Real Estate
Market Cap: $350 million
5-Year Return: 2,300%
12-Month Return: 0%
Admittedly, China HGS Real Estate (HGSH) hasn’t done well lately thanks to the big slowdown in China and the fear of a real estate bubble there. However, it’s undeniable that emerging market stocks stole the show in the dark days of 2008, 2009 and 2010 — and the outsized gains gobbled up by HGSH in this period continue to outshine and recent volatility. The small-cap Chinese real estate firm specializes in residential apartments and commercial properties in urban areas and continues to see brisk growth.
#3 — Akorn Inc. (AKRX)
Market Cap: $3.8 billion
5-Year Return: 2,700%
12-Month Return: 93%
Akorn (AKRX) is another small-time healthcare stock that came into the big-time over the last few years. Akorn focuses on niche drugs, mostly in the ophthalmic and injectable space. Like Jazz, Akorn has managed to carve out a very profitable business by focusing on an otherwise underserved market — giving it big share where it chooses to operate, and making it a pretty attractive takeover target from Big Pharama.
#2 — Cheniere Energy (LNG)
Sector: Natural Gas
Market Cap: $20 billion
5-Year Return: 2,895%
12-Month Return: 177%
While crude oil has never reclaimed its elevated levels since 2008 and many Big Oil stocks have been battered since then, natural gas has been undergoing a renaissance in America across the last few years. Cheap costs and abundant supplies thanks to fracking have put natural gas is in high demand — and that means big business for Cheniere Energy (LNG). As the ticker symbol implies, Cheniere operates pipelines and transfer terminals for liquid natural gas … and charges folks a fee to use its infrastructure to send or receive this energy source. It’s a great business to be in, and the stock has soared as a result.
#1 — Pharmacyclics, Inc. (PCYC)
Sector: Healthcare services
Market Cap: $9 billion
5-Year Return: 8,800%
12-Month Return: -2%
If you’ve been paying attention, it’s probably not a surprise to see another drug stock on the top of the heap. What’s amazing, however, is the 8,800% returns racked up by Pharmacyclics (PCYC). In September of 2009, shares were trading for about $1.40 — and now they are hovering around $120 per share, turning $10,000 into more than $850,000! This clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, sadly, has most of its gains behind it thanks to its successful cancer and immune disorder treatments being fully priced in. But PCYC stock sure is a great story to behold, indicating the power of smaller drugmakers to explode in short order.
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.