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Why Investors Might Think Twice About Chasing the Biggest Stocks

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As companies grow to become some of the largest firms trading on the US stock market, the returns that push them there can be impressive. But not long after joining the Top 10 largest by market cap, these stocks, on average, lagged the market.

• From 1927 to 2020, the average annualized return for these stocks over the three years prior to joining the Top 10 was nearly 25% higher than the market. In the three years after, the edge was less than 1%.2

• Five years after joining the Top 10, these stocks were, on average, underperforming the market—a stark turnaround from their earlier advantage. The gap was even wider 10 years out.

• Intel is an illustrative example. The technology giant posted average annualized excess returns of 29% in the 10 years before the year it ascended to the Top 10 but, in the next decade, underperformed the broad market by nearly 6% per year. Similarly, the annualized excess return of Google five years before it hit the Top 10 dropped by about half in the five years after it joined the list.


Expectations about a firm’s prospects are reflected in its current stock price. Positive news might lead to additional price appreciation, but those unexpected changes are not predictable.


1. Ten largest companies by market capitalization. 2. Returns are measured as of the start of the first calendar year after a stock joins the Top 10.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are not available for direct investment; therefore, their performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio. This information is intended for educational purposes and should not be considered a recommendation to buy or sell a particular security. Named securities may be held in accounts managed by Dimensional. In USD. Source: Dimensional, using data from CRSP. Includes all US common stocks excluding REITs. Largest stocks identified at the end of each calendar year by sorting eligible US stocks on market capitalization. Market is represented by the Fama/French Total US Market Research Index. Annualized Excess Return is the difference in annualized compound returns between the stock and the market over the 3-, 5-, and 10-year periods, before and after each stocks’ initial year-end classification in the top 10. 3-, 5-, and 10-annualized returns are computed for companies with return data available for the entire 3-, 5-, and 10-year periods respectively. The number of firm included in measuring excess returns prior (subsequent) to becoming a top 10 stock consists of 39 (54) for 3-year, 38 (53) for 5-year, and 30 (47) for 10-year. Fama/French Total US Market Research Index: The value-weighed US market index is constructed every month, using all issues listed on the NYSE, AMEX, or Nasdaq with available outstanding shares and valid prices for that month and the month before. Exclusions: American Depositary Receipts. Sources: CRSP for value-weighted US market return. Rebalancing: Monthly. Dividends: Reinvested in the paying company until the portfolio is rebalanced. Eugene Fama and Ken French are members of the Board of Directors of the general partner of, and provide consulting services to, Dimensional Fund Advisors LP.

About the Author Doug Finley

Douglas Finley, MS, CFP, AEP, CDFA founded Finley Wealth Advisors in February of 2006, as a Fiduciary Fee-Only Registered Investment Advisor, with the goal of creating a firm that eliminated the conflicts of interest inherent in the financial planner – advisor/client relationship. The firm specializes in wealth management for the middle-class millionaire.

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