Do stocks outperform Treasury bills?

Research by Hendrik Bessembinder, professor and Francis J. and Mary B. Labriola Endowed Chair in Competitive Business at ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business, evaluated lifetime returns to every U.S. common stock traded on the New York and American stock exchanges and the Nasdaq since 1926.

Key findings

“The results also help to explain why active strategies, which tend to be poorly diversified, most often underperform,” says Bessembinder, who found that the largest returns come from very few stocks overall — just 86 stocks have accounted for $16 trillion in wealth creation, half of the stock market total, over the past 90 years. All of the wealth creation can be attributed to the thousand top-performing stocks, while the remaining 96 percent of stocks collectively matched one-month T-bills.

Bessembinder’s groundbreaking research has been covered extensively in major news outlets. He made available a spreadsheet containing lifetime stock market wealth creation data for each U.S. common stock since 1926, as well as the SAS computer program that generates the data, featured below.

Top 20 wealth creators from 1926 to 2017

If most stocks are underperforming, yet the market as a whole does well, the only way these two things can come together is that there are a few stocks doing really well that pull the whole market up. Click the infographic to see the the top 20 winning stocks.

infographic

Take a closer look »

Read the research

News and media coverage

Research tools

  • Spreadsheet — U.S. public stock market wealth creation by company, measured as of Dec. 31, 2016
  • Updated spreadsheet — U.S. public stock market wealth creation by company, measured as of Dec. 31, 2017
  • SAS program — to generate wealth creation outcomes

The SAS program measures wealth creation on the basis of past stock market prices and returns, as described in the paper "Do stocks outperform Treasury bills?" The program requires as input monthly stock return data from the Center for Research in Security Prices (CRSP) at the University of Chicago. Companies are identified based on the “Permco” variable assigned by CRSP, and the company name listed in the spreadsheet is that most recently associated with the Permco by CRSP. The first and last months listed in the spreadsheet identify the earliest and latest months for which the CRSP database contains return data for the Permco, except that the earliest month never precedes July 1926. For companies with multiple share classes, wealth creation is computed separately for each class (CRSP permno), and summed across classes.

Questions regarding the CRSP data or CRSP’s assignments of the permno and permco variables should be directed to CRSP.

Permco Company name Lifetime wealth ($ millions) Percent of total Cumulative % of total First month Last month
20678 EXXON MOBIL CORP $1,002,144.38 2.88% 2.88% Jul-26 Dec-16
7 APPLE INC $745,674.95 2.14% 5.02% Jan-81 Dec-16
8048 MICROSOFT CORP $629,803.55 1.81% 6.83% Apr-86 Dec-16
20792 GENERAL ELECTRIC CO $608,115.39 1.75% 8.57% Jul-26 Dec-16
20990 INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHS COR $520,240.33 1.49% 10.07% Jul-26 Dec-16
21398 ALTRIA GROUP INC $470,183.11 1.35% 11.42% Jul-26 Dec-16
21018 JOHNSON & JOHNSON $426,210.45 1.22% 12.64% Oct-44 Dec-16
20799 GENERAL MOTORS CORP $425,318.22 1.22% 13.86% Jul-26 Jun-09
20440 CHEVRON CORP NEW $390,427.09 1.12% 14.98% Jul-26 Dec-16
21880 WAL MART STORES INC $368,214.42 1.06% 16.04% Dec-72 Dec-16
45483 ALPHABET INC $365,284.60 1.05% 17.09% Sep-04 Dec-16
540 BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY INC DEL $355,863.57 1.02% 18.11% Nov-76 Dec-16
21446 PROCTER & GAMBLE CO $354,971.14 1.02% 19.13% Sep-29 Dec-16
15473 AMAZON COM INC $335,100.49 0.96% 20.09% Jun-97 Dec-16
20468 COCA COLA CO $326,085.19 0.94% 21.03% Jul-26 Dec-16
20606 DU PONT E I DE NEMOURS & CO $307,975.71 0.88% 21.91% Jul-26 Dec-16
20103 A T & T CORP $297,240.00 0.85% 22.77% Jul-26 Nov-05
21188 MERCK & CO INC NEW $286,670.53 0.82% 23.59% Jun-46 Dec-16
21305 WELLS FARGO & CO NEW $261,342.65 0.75% 24.34% Jan-63 Dec-16
2367 INTEL CORP $259,252.18 0.74% 25.09% Jan-73 Dec-16
20436 JPMORGAN CHASE & CO $238,148.30 0.68% 25.77% Apr-69 Dec-16
5085 HOME DEPOT INC $230,702.84 0.66% 26.43% Oct-81 Dec-16
21384 PEPSICO INC $224,570.60 0.64% 27.08% Jul-26 Dec-16
8045 ORACLE CORP $214,244.71 0.62% 27.69% Apr-86 Dec-16
21211 MOBIL CORP $202,460.65 0.58% 28.27% Jan-27 Nov-99
21205 3M CO $200,356.97 0.58% 28.85% Feb-46 Dec-16
20587 DISNEY WALT CO $191,953.52 0.55% 29.40% Dec-57 Dec-16
54084 FACEBOOK INC $181,243.48 0.52% 29.92% Jun-12 Dec-16
20017 ABBOTT LABORATORIES $181,151.72 0.52% 30.44% Apr-37 Dec-16
21394 PFIZER INC $179,893.55 0.52% 30.96% Feb-44 Dec-16
21177 MCDONALDS CORP $178,327.05 0.51% 31.47% Aug-66 Dec-16
7267 UNITEDHEALTH GROUP INC $172,168.41 0.49% 31.96% Nov-84 Dec-16
21645 A T & T INC $169,525.11 0.49% 32.45% Mar-84 Dec-16
20191 AMOCO CORP $168,008.81 0.48% 32.93% Sep-34 Dec-98
20288 VERIZON COMMUNICATIONS INC $165,101.76 0.47% 33.41% Mar-84 Dec-16
21734 TEXACO INC $164,279.14 0.47% 33.88% Jul-26 Oct-01
20331 BRISTOL MYERS SQUIBB CO $161,948.84 0.47% 34.34% Aug-29 Dec-16
43613 COMCAST CORP NEW $146,959.24 0.42% 34.77% Dec-02 Dec-16
21401 CONOCOPHILLIPS $143,849.03 0.41% 35.18% Jul-26 Dec-16
21886 WARNER LAMBERT CO $142,468.00 0.41% 35.59% Jul-51 Jun-00
20315 BOEING CO $139,354.92 0.40% 35.99% Oct-34 Dec-16
216 AMGEN INC $137,876.66 0.40% 36.39% Jul-83 Dec-16
21576 SCHLUMBERGER LTD $134,185.77 0.39% 36.77% Jul-26 Dec-16
10486 CISCO SYSTEMS INC $131,294.63 0.38% 37.15% Mar-90 Dec-16
52983 VISA INC $129,757.45 0.37% 37.52% Apr-08 Dec-16
20908 H P INC $129,289.71 0.37% 37.89% Apr-61 Dec-16
21832 UNITED TECHNOLOGIES CORP $126,167.80 0.36% 38.25% May-29 Dec-16
21810 UNION PACIFIC CORP $122,357.22 0.35% 38.60% Aug-69 Dec-16
21592 SEARS ROEBUCK & CO $120,586.75 0.35% 38.95% Jul-26 Mar-05
11300 GILEAD SCIENCES INC $118,600.24 0.34% 39.29% Feb-92 Dec-16
29151 ROYAL BANK CANADA MONTREAL QUE $118,551.85 0.34% 39.63% Nov-95 Dec-16
20597 DOW CHEMICAL CO $118,422.81 0.34% 39.97% Jul-37 Dec-16
20086 WYETH $117,676.15 0.34% 40.31% Jul-26 Oct-09
20750 FORD MOTOR CO DEL $116,301.92 0.33% 40.64% Apr-56 Dec-16
52978 PHILIP MORRIS INTERNATIONAL INC $116,090.43 0.33% 40.98% Apr-08 Dec-16
20290 BELLSOUTH CORP $114,763.20 0.33% 41.31% Mar-84 Dec-06
21102 LILLY ELI & CO $112,419.66 0.32% 41.63% Aug-70 Dec-16
50700 MASTERCARD INC $110,969.83 0.32% 41.95% Jun-06 Dec-16
20088 AMERITECH CORP $110,343.15 0.32% 42.27% Mar-84 Oct-99
20245 B C E INC $107,784.90 0.31% 42.57% Aug-62 Dec-16
90 AMERICAN EXPRESS CO $102,895.13 0.30% 42.87% Jul-26 Dec-16
20408 CATERPILLAR INC $101,433.27 0.29% 43.16% Jan-30 Dec-16
23101 GULF CORP $100,471.30 0.29% 43.45% Aug-43 Jun-84
22168 HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL INC $100,092.08 0.29% 43.74% Jul-26 Dec-16
21110 LOCKHEED MARTIN CORP $97,374.04 0.28% 44.02% Jan-40 Dec-16
29152 TORONTO DOMINION BANK ONT $95,359.99 0.27% 44.29% Sep-96 Dec-16
21803 UNILEVER N V $95,145.20 0.27% 44.56% Jan-62 Dec-16
21881 WALGREENS BOOTS ALLIANCE INC $94,650.85 0.27% 44.84% Mar-34 Dec-16
20776 G T E CORP $93,442.65 0.27% 45.10% May-39 Jun-00
21185 C V S HEALTH CORP $93,185.25 0.27% 45.37% Oct-28 Dec-16
11253 QUALCOMM INC $91,341.27 0.26% 45.63% Jan-92 Dec-16
21737 TEXAS INSTRUMENTS INC $90,088.18 0.26% 45.89% Jul-26 Dec-16
22518 SHELL OIL CO $89,412.17 0.26% 46.15% Jul-26 Jun-85
9374 CELGENE CORP $88,624.30 0.25% 46.40% Aug-87 Dec-16
20473 COLGATE PALMOLIVE CO $88,622.07 0.25% 46.66% May-30 Dec-16
2709 LOWES COMPANIES INC $87,788.48 0.25% 46.91% Jan-73 Dec-16
21830 U S WEST INC NEW $87,274.55 0.25% 47.16% Mar-84 Jun-00
11592 STARBUCKS CORP $86,657.08 0.25% 47.41% Jul-92 Dec-16
20626 EASTMAN KODAK CO $85,674.85 0.25% 47.66% Jul-26 Dec-16
1645 U S BANCORP DEL $83,742.78 0.24% 47.90% Jan-73 Dec-16
35048 GOLDMAN SACHS GROUP INC $81,377.74 0.23% 48.13% Jun-99 Dec-16
21640 SOUTHERN CO $81,229.83 0.23% 48.36% Nov-29 Dec-16
3194 NIKE INC $79,898.11 0.23% 48.59% Jan-81 Dec-16
22506 NABISCO GROUP HOLDING CORP $79,756.05 0.23% 48.82% Jul-26 Dec-00
2850 MEDTRONIC PLC $78,374.50 0.23% 49.05% Jan-73 Dec-16
21756 TIME WARNER INC $77,980.12 0.22% 49.27% May-64 Jan-01
35164 REYNOLDS AMERICAN INC $77,011.98 0.22% 49.49% Jul-99 Dec-16
16285 EBAY INC $76,244.74 0.22% 49.71% Oct-98 Dec-16
1928 GENENTECH INC $76,124.79 0.22% 49.93% Nov-80 Mar-09
4388 TELE COMMUNICATIONS INC NEW $75,632.64 0.22% 50.15% Jan-73 Mar-99
7882 COSTCO WHOLESALE CORP NEW $74,310.59 0.21% 50.36% Dec-85 Dec-16
20818 GILLETTE CO $73,431.96 0.21% 50.57% Oct-27 Sep-05
21055 KIMBERLY CLARK CORP $72,879.67 0.21% 50.78% Jun-29 Dec-16
20791 GENERAL DYNAMICS CORP $72,362.69 0.21% 50.99% Jul-26 Dec-16
20235 AUTOMATIC DATA PROCESSING INC $72,025.08 0.21% 51.20% Jul-67 Dec-16
21224 MORGAN STANLEY DEAN WITTER & CO $71,303.69 0.20% 51.40% Apr-86 Dec-16
20561 TARGET CORP $70,661.94 0.20% 51.60% Oct-69 Dec-16
20684 NEXTERA ENERGY INC $69,913.91 0.20% 51.80% Mar-50 Dec-16
41871 ACCENTURE PLC IRELAND $69,319.47 0.20% 52.00% Aug-01 Dec-16
3151 BANK OF AMERICA CORP $69,194.73 0.20% 52.20% Jan-73 Dec-16