Stocks for the Long Run: National Retail Properties vs. the S&P 500

Investing isn't easy. Even Warren Buffett counsels that most investors should invest in a low-cost index like the S&P 500. That way, "you'll be buying into a wonderful industry, which in effect is all of American industry," he says.

But there are, of course, companies whose long-term fortunes differ substantially from the index. In this series, we look at how individual stocks have performed against the broad S&P 500.

Step on up, National Retail Properties (NYS: NNN) .

National Retail Properties shares have easily outperformed the S&P 500 over the past quarter-century, with most of the outperformance coming in recent years:

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

Since 1987, shares have returned an average of 13.2% a year, compared with 9.7% a year for the S&P (both include dividends). One thousand dollars invested in the S&P in 1987 would be worth $19,200 today. In National Retail Properties, it'd be worth $52,200.

Dividends accounted for a lot of those gains. Compounded since 1987, dividends have made up about 90% of National Retail Properties' total returns. For the S&P, dividends account for 39% of total returns.

Now have a look at how National Retail Properties earnings compare with S&P 500 earnings:

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

Steep underperformance here. Since 1995, National Retail Properties' earnings per share have declined by an average of 0.2% a year, compared with 6% growth a year for the broader index.

What's that meant for valuations? National Retail Properties has traded for an average of 25 times earnings since 1987 -- just above the 24 times earnings for the broader S&P 500. It's far different today, however, National Retail Properties shares currently trade for about 17 times next year's expected profits.

Through it all, shares have been strong performers over the past quarter-century.

Of course, the important question is whether that will continue. That's where you come in. Our CAPS community currently ranks National Retail Properties with a two-star rating (out of five). Care to disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, or add National Retail Properties to My Watchlist.

The article Stocks for the Long Run: National Retail Properties vs. the S&P 500 originally appeared on

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