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Ten best S&P 500 stocks of the decade Add to ...

Company Profile: Cognizant Technology provides custom information-technology consulting and technology services as well as outsourcing services for companies located in North America, Europe and Asia.

Analyst Ratings: Eighteen analysts have a "buy" rating on Cognizant shares and another two say investors should hold onto the stock. No research firm has a "sell" rating on Cognizant.

Major Events: Cognizant didn't join the S&P 500 until November 2006, but it has consistently been named one of the fastest-growing companies by Fortune, Business Week and Forbes. Cognizant has taken what it calls a "vertical focus" by organizing its business into four segments, including financial services, health care, manufacturing and retail, and communications and media. In 2003, Cognizant became a fully independent company after IMS Health, which owned a 56% stake in the company, announced a "split-off" exchange.

Upside Potential: On average, analysts are looking for Cognizant shares to rise only 3.5% from where they currently trade to $72.22.

6. Southwestern Energy

10-Year Gain: 2,648%

Company Profile: Southwestern Energy is an independent energy company, which through its subsidiaries, is engaged in the exploration, development and production of natural gas and crude oil within the U.S.

Analyst Ratings: Of the 26 research firms with coverage of Southwestern Energy, only one analyst has a "sell" rating on the stock. Seventeen other analysts have a "buy" rating and eight suggest that investors hold onto shares.

Major Events: Formerly known as Arkansas Western, the company began the last decade drilling for natural gas in the overlooked Overton Field in East Texas. In 2003, Southwestern Energy began investing in the new Fayetteville Shale play, beginning production from the area in 2004. In 2008, Southwestern Energy sells Arkansas Western Gas in order to focus on the exploration and production of natural gas.

Upside Potential: Analysts continue to believe Southwestern Energy shares can climb, as a price target of $45 implies 26% upside.

5. Cliffs Natural Resources

10-Year Gain: 2,657%

Company Profile: Cliffs Natural Resources mines iron ore.

Analyst Ratings: Nine researchers have a "buy" rating on Cliffs Natural Resources and another four rate the stock a "hold." No research firm covering the stock has a "sell" rating.

Major Events: Founded in 1847 as the Cleveland Iron Mining Co., Cliffs Natural Resources had a rollercoaster decade due to the effect of recessions on the iron-ore industry. Following the recession at the start of the decade, President George W. Bush placed a temporary tariff on imported steel, which helped domestic companies. The emergence of China in the global economy brought good fortune on iron-ore companies. In the U.S., Cliffs has six iron-ore mines in Michigan, Minnesota and Eastern Canada, and six coal mines in West Virginia and Alabama. The company now has business units in the Asia-Pacific region, Latin America and Brazil. The company changed its name from Cleveland-Cliffs to Cliffs Natural Resources in 2008.

Upside Potential: Analysts have an average price target of $85.40 for Cliffs shares, which implies a 12% gain.

4. Urban Outfitters

10-Year Gain: 3,649%

Company Profile: Urban Outfitters is the Philadelphia-based apparel retailer that targets young adults aged 18 to 30. The company operates under the Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People and Terrain brands.

Analyst Ratings: One of 26 analysts covering Urban Outfitters has a "sell" rating, while another eight have a "hold" rating. The remaining 17 researchers suggest that investors buy shares of the retailer.

Major Events: The company's operations grew throughout the decade but without any major incident. Urban Outfitters has increased its store count annually, and net sales nearly doubled from fiscal 2006 to fiscal 2010. However, the retailer's hip fashion items and products have generated some minor controversy over the past decade, including the "Jesus Dress Up" game that the company no longer markets.

Upside Potential: After a breakout move over the past decade, analysts don't see much upside left in Urban Outfitters. An average price target of $39.48 would mean another 7.3% increase in the retailer stock.

3. FLIR Systems

10-Year Gain: 3,922%

Company Profile: FLIR Systems designs, manufactures and markets thermal-imaging systems, which are used for military and defense, police and security professionals, and building diagnostics.

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