Editor's Note: Jon D. Markman writes a weekly column for CNBC on MSN Money that is republished here on TheStreet.com.
I want to tell you about the most
consistent performers of the past decade. Not the ones with the very best total returns, but the ones that have put up positive results in each of the past 10 years. A lot of the names will confound you, as they are not the sort of glamorous companies that seek out or get a lot of publicity. They just find a way to make money for shareholders, every single year.
According to my calculations, of the 10,000-plus stocks available for purchase today, only 17 have recorded positive total returns in every one of the past 10 years.
In my experience, the stocks with streaks tend to have staying power. At the start of 2005, there were just five stocks with a 10-year winning streak, and they were up 16% on average last year:
Expeditors International of Washington
(EXPD - Get Report)
, up 24%;
, up 26%;
Brown & Brown
(BRO - Get Report)
, up 40%;
(SYK - Get Report)
, down 8%; and
(GGG - Get Report)
, down 0.9%.
I'll show you the full list at the start of 2006 in a moment. But first, let's meet a few up close.
Four of the companies on a 10-year winning streak are in the construction-materials business. If you're nervous about housing but want to make sure you don't miss out on gains from what has been a hot sector, these provide a way in with less risk.
(POOL - Get Report)
, Genlyte Group,
Florida Rock Industries
(SSD - Get Report)
have returned 57%, 35%, 35% and 27%, respectively, on average, over the past 10 years. All have naturally put up great numbers in years when the major homebuilders have done well, as in 2003 and 2004. But they have also cruised even when the homebuilders have faltered, as in 1996, 1999 and 2002.
Florida Rock is just what it sounds like: It quarries sand and gravel, which are surprisingly not plentiful even in Florida, and processes cement and concrete, which are in short supply worldwide. It's been growing earnings 20% annually for the past two decades, has 30 years of rock reserves and a bulletproof balance sheet containing $70 million cash, services the fastest-growing state in the nation, pays a 1.7% dividend and is run by its founding family. The shares have recently slumped 20% off their high and look good for newcomers.