Stocks for the Long Run: Harley-Davidson 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, Harley-Davidson .

Harley-Davidson shares have crushed the S&P 500 over the past quarter-century (note: this chart is in log scale):


Source: S&P Capital IQ.

Since 1987, shares have returned an average of 22.9% 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 Harley-Davidson, it'd be worth $728,300.

Dividends accounted for a lot of those gains. Compounded since 1987, dividends have made up 21% of Harley-Davidson's returns. For the S&P, dividends account for 39% of total returns.

Now have a look at how Harley-Davidson earnings compare with S&P 500 earnings:


Source: S&P Capital IQ.

Big outperformance here, too. Since 1995, Harley-Davidson's earnings per share have increased by an average of 12.2% per year, compared with 6% a year for the broader index.

What's that meant for valuations? Harley-Davidson has traded for an average of 24 times earnings since 1987 -- the same as the broader S&P 500.

Through it all, shares have been incredible 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 Harley-Davidson with a two-star rating (out of five). Care to disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, or add Harley-Davidson to My Watchlist.

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The article Stocks for the Long Run: Harley-Davidson vs. the S&P 500 originally appeared on

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