Skip to Content
Stock Strategist

These Highfliers Almost Bit the Dust

We take a look at the best performing stocks of 2009.

As 2009 comes to a close, we've been digging through our databases to see what worked--and what didn't--this year. First up, are the stocks that had the best year.

Given how aggressively the market bounced from its March lows, we weren't surprised that there were many stocks that returned more than 400% and even a few that broke the 1,000% return level. The top performers are spread out across industries from auto part manufacturers to biotech firms.

The common thread among most of the highfliers is that at the beginning of the year, the market assumed that many of them were going bankrupt. Many of these firms are reliant on constant financing to stay afloat, and when the credit markets seized up, it was assumed they would go belly up. But when lending starting making a return, these stocks were on a rocket.

One sector that is notably absent is financial services. Although these stocks got punished as much as (or even more than) other highly levered sectors, they never came back with the same vengeance.

Below are the 25 best-performing stocks. To simplify the list, we screened out stocks that don't trade on the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq or that have market caps less than $500 million. Data as of Dec. 17, 2009.


Name Ticker Industry YTD Total Return (%) Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group, Inc.   Rental & Leasing Services 2,087 SmartHeat, Incorporated  (HEAT) Industrial Equipment & Components 1,757 Avis Budget Group, Inc.  (CAR) Rental & Leasing Services 1,686 Valassis Communications   Marketing Services 1,297 Dana Holding Corp  (DAN) Auto Parts 1,203 Human Genome Sciences   Diagnostic Substances 1,192 Dupont Fabros Technology, Inc.   Property Management 747 RINO International Corporation  (RINO) Industrial Equipment & Components 699 Quantum Corporation  (QTM) Data Storage Devices 692 Cell Therapeutics, Inc.  (CTIC) Biotechnology 650 Teck Resources Ltd B  (TCK) Industrial Metals & Minerals 643 TRW Automotive Holdings Corporation   Auto Parts 601 Clearwater Paper Corp  (CLW) Paper & Paper Products 565 Cott Corporation  (COT) Beverages - Soft Drinks 557 Targacept, Inc.  (TRGT) Biotechnology 513 RF Micro Devices, Inc.   Semiconductor - Integrated Circuits 505 China Automotive Systems, Inc.  (CAAS) Auto Parts 482 Dendreon Corporation   Biotechnology 458 Tenneco, Inc.   Auto Parts 457 Trina Solar Limited ADR   Semiconductor - Specialized 445 Ivanhoe Energy, Inc.   Oil & Gas Drilling & Exploration 443 Ivanhoe Mines, Ltd.   Industrial Metals & Minerals 419 Aixtron Aktiengesellschaft ADR   Diversified Machinery 418 Liberty Media Corp B   Entertainment - Diversified 405 Sirius XM Radio Inc.  (SIRI) Broadcasting - Radio 401

Jeremy Glaser does not own (actual or beneficial) shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.