The stock market can feel like a big, confusing gamble. Stocks rise and fall. Money is made and lost. Investors pore over company details, eye financial records and try to make sense of it all. When it comes to technology stocks, there have been some spectacular failures over the years, but also some all-time great successes. Let’s check out some of the absolute best tech stocks to ever light up Wall Street.
Our guide on this journey is finance expert Hendrik Bessembinder, a professor at Arizona State University. Bessembinder released a report earlier this year called “Do Stocks Outperform Treasury Bills?” Tucked into the fascinating study is a list of stocks that lead the pack in what he calls “lifetime wealth creation.” The finance professor looked at stocks contained in a database covering returns from 1926 through 2016. Here are the top tech stars from that list with the lifetime wealth creation numbers rounded to the closest billion:
Stock ticker symbol: AAPL
Lifetime wealth creation: $746 billion
First offered: 1980
While energy giant Exxon Mobil tops Bessembinder’s list with a $1 trillion figure, Apple comes in close on its heels and leads all of the tech stocks in the study. Remember the report only covers through 2016. Apple stock is booming this year as the company announced a slew of new products ranging from the high-end iPhone X to the voice-assistant HomePod speaker meant to compete head-on with Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa gadgets. Apple has a solid claim to being the greatest tech stock in history.
Stock ticker symbol: MSFT
Lifetime wealth creation: $630 billion
First offered: 1986
It should come as no surprise that Microsoft, maker of Windows, follows Apple in the lifetime wealth creation rankings for tech companies. According to Microsoft, if you had purchased one share for $21 during its IPO in 1986, that share would now be worth around $21,000 after nine stock splits. That’s a whopping 101,386 percent return on investment.
Stock ticker symbol: IBM
Lifetime wealth creation: $520 billion
First offered: 1978
It can be easy to forget that IBM stands for “International Business Machines.” It was originally founded in 1911 and switched to the IBM name back in 1924. That’s long before the internet existed or the iPhone was even a glimmer in Steve Jobs’ eye. IBM was once a powerhouse maker of personal computers. These days, IBM is involved in everything from artificial intelligence to cloud computing, showing its willingness to shift with the times.
Alphabet (formerly known as Google)
Stock ticker symbol: GOOGL
Lifetime wealth creation: $365 billion
First offered: 2004
Pretty much everyone still calls all of Google “Google,” but the parent company got a new name in 2015 with the introduction of its holding company “Alphabet.” Alphabet may be the newest tech stock on Bessembinder’s list of high-ranking juggernauts, but business has been booming for the multifaceted company since the 2004 IPO. That means Alphabet has created a whole lot of wealth in a relatively short amount of time.
Stock ticker symbol: AMZN
Lifetime wealth creation: $335 billion
First offered: 1997
Amazon announced its second quarter 2017 sales hit $38 billion. The massive retailer started off humbly enough when founder Jeff Bezos launched it as an online bookstore in 1995. Today, it sells almost anything imaginable and is branching out into bricks-and-mortar with this year’s acquisition of grocery chain Whole Foods. The company’s stock price briefly topped $1,000 per share in 2017.
Stock ticker symbol: INTC
Lifetime wealth creation: $259 billion
First offered: 1971
Intel is known for making the processors that power computers. Look down at your PC and chances are good you will see a little Intel logo somewhere on the machine. Intel is the elder among the high-performing tech stocks on Bessembinder’s chart. The company went public just a few years after its founding in 1968. It reported a record $59.4 billion in revenue for 2016.
Stock ticker symbol: ORCL
Lifetime wealth creation: $214 billion
First offered: 1986
Oracle may not have the popular name recognition or glamour of companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google, but it’s a major mover in enterprise software and has invested a considerable amount in cloud applications. Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison was there at the start in 1977 and is still the company’s executive chairman and CTO. While Oracle provides hardware and services, the bulk of its business is software. Its strength moving forward will depend on how well it handles a changing market filled with cloud competitors.