20 Smart Investments You Should Have Made in 2018

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MANY HAPPY RETURNS?

While the stock market has been on a rollercoaster ride of late thanks to rising interest rates and the ongoing trade war with China, there were plenty of stocks that have done quite well, if not downright outstandingly this year. Among the best performers were tech stocks such as Microsoft and household names like Netflix and Amazon, which has seen an influx of big-name retailers. Some market watchers say the key amid market volatility is picking stocks that are poised to grow regardless of what the future holds. Here's a look at some of 2018's top performers we should have bought (and maybe sold before the market's recent gyrations), as well as a few stocks that experts say you should buy now because they will do well in 2019.
Microsoft sign at the entrance of their Silicon Valley campus in Mountain View, California
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MICROSOFT

Benefiting from its move to a cloud-centric business model, Microsoft's stock has performed like a rock star this year. In fact, the New York Times recently reported that the company was now worth as much as Apple, more than $850 billion, thanks to a stock price that had climbed more than 40 percent during the past 12 months. That's no small feat. And under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella, who helped move Microsoft more aggressively into the cloud, the company remains poised to continue its dynamic performance. Like others, the tech giant's stock has receded recently but was still up more than 20 percent year to date.

Salesforce Tower, San Francisco
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SALESFORCE

Salesforce may not be a household name like Microsoft, but that's no reason to sniff at this San Francisco company's solid performance. Best known as a customer relationship management cloud-based platform company, Salesforce has achieved a year-to-date gain in share price of some 28 percent. During the first quarter of 2018, the company posted a 25 percent increase in revenue compared to the previous year while also achieving a 79 percent increase in adjusted earnings per share. With all of this good news, the 2019 outlook for Salesforce is solid.

Amazon headquarters located in Silicon Valley, San Francisco
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AMAZON

It's hardly any secret that Amazon and Jeff Bezos are doing exceedingly well. Amazon's Cyber Monday this year was the best shopping day in the company's history. The shopping event did better than Black Friday and even Amazon's own annual sales event, Prime Day. The e-commerce giant often blamed for the bricks-and-mortar retail apocalypse has witnessed a gain of nearly 28 percent in its stock value year to date. "Major tech stocks started the year on a tear and rallied through most of the year," says Riley Adams, senior financial analyst for Entergy and creator of the personal finance site Young and the Invested. "These stocks have thrived due to their rapid growth and maturation and haven't been bogged down by other hiccups seen in the markets during this bull market. Their businesses have largely been insulated from any economic uncertainties and continued their growth at unabated rates."

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ADVANCED MICRO DEVICES

Some of the best performing stocks this year, were among the worst performing stocks of last year, says Chris Tuck, a certified financial planner with SJK Wealth Management. Advanced Micro Devices is just one example of that. The stock is up 76 percent year to date and last year was down 7 percent. The California semiconductor company, which develops computer processors for business and consumer markets, has apparently been stealing large chunks of market share from competitor Intel and by some accounts is on track to keep doing that in 2019.

Under Armour store, San Diego, CA
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UNDER ARMOUR

Under Armour is another example of a stock that performed very poorly just one year ago, but made a rebound in 2018, says Tuck, of SJK Wealth Management. The stock is up about 25 percent year to date, but it finished 2017 down about 50 percent, says Tuck. "This is just another confirmation that buying this year's dogs can be next year's darlings."

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ILLUMINA

One of the country's most well-known genetics companies, Illumina reported its highest sales ever for its genomic-sequencing systems this year. It followed-up that feat by purchasing its most significant competitor, Pacific Biosciences, the very next month. The company also kept Wall Street excited by announcing such developments as the launch of a new desktop DNA sequencing system and several new collaborations in oncology diagnostics. Its stock price is up a truly impressive 38 percent year to date.

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OMEGA HEALTHCARE INVESTORS

The real estate investment trust Omega Healthcare Investors is among Adams' top picks for best performers of 2018. The creator of Young and the Invested, says REITs are performing particularly well even amid a rising interest rate environment. In the case of Omega Healthcare Investors, the stock is up nearly 30 percent year to date. "And that doesn't include its dividend payments made to investors," says Adams.
TurboTax 2018
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INTUIT

The maker of TurboTax and QuickBooks Online (QBO), Intuit's revenue and operating income have been on a steady climb, increasing by double-digit rates over last year. At the same time QBO subscribers are also soaring upward, with a 45 percent jump year over year in the most recent quarter. Moral of the story? Inuit's stock is up by about 24 percent.

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SHOPIFY

In 2017, Ottawa-based Shopify posted a staggering 73 percent year-over-year increase in its revenue. And in 2018, the Canadian e-commerce company has not disappointed, either. First-quarter revenue was up 68 percent, far higher than its own internal projections. Company executives said during the first quarter of this year that they are expecting revenue for 2018 to be about $1 billion, all of which has pushed shares up nearly 32 percent year to date.

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NETFLIX

There's no stopping Netflix, a company that issued a blockbuster third-quarter earnings report in 2018, the highlights of which included revenue of $4 billion and 6.96 million subscriber additions. The company has Wall Street investors salivating. Shares soared as much as 15 percent after the earnings report. Its stock price is currently up nearly 39 percent over a year ago.

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HCA HEALTHCARE

Operator of acute-care hospitals and surgical centers, HCA Healthcare includes 179 hospitals and 120 surgical centers. In 2018, the company increased its share price by nearly 40 percent. As of the third-quarter, its revenues had increased 7.1 percent, to $11.45 billion. Facility admissions are also in growth mode this year, up by about 3 percent.

Chipotle
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CHIPOTLE MEXICAN GRILL

Chipotle's rebound from the E. coli scandals of year's past appears to be proceeding steadily. The price of its stock is up nearly 48 percent year-to-date, while its revenue and earnings have surpassed expectations. Sales during the first six months of the year were up 7.9 percent, which market watchers say is tied to price increases and new restaurant openings. The food chain's solid performance is expected to continue in 2019.

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TWITTER

There have been plenty of naysayers who projected Twitter would go the way of the dinosaurs in the face of competition from Instagram and other social media platforms. Twitter, however, is proving those critics wrong. This year, the company reported fourth-quarter results from the previous year that revealed its first profit. During the first-quarter of 2018, Twitter's success story continued with revenue increases of 21 percent year over year. Take that, Instagram. Its stock is up more than 37 percent year to date.

Square sign
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SQUARE

Square's growth accelerated for three quarters in a row in 2018, and its stock is currently up more than 70 percent year to date. The San Francisco-based financial services company has been growing phenomenally this year. The company also continues to launch new products, including a new platform for restaurants and has a track record of outperforming Wall Street earnings forecasts.

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THE TRADE DESK

It's hard to beat a stock that's up more than 165 percent. No, that's not a typo, The Trade Desk has been crushing analyst's predictions every quarter this year and breaking its own records. A digital advertising platform company, The Trade Desk has showcased incredible momentum in 2018. It's third quarter financial results broke previous revenue records (again). The company reported $118 million in revenue, a 50 percent increase year-over-year, while net income was a record $20.3 million. Some analysts have described The Trade Desk as their top stock buy.

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TELADOC HEALTH

Compared to The Trade Desk's more than 165 percent increase in stock value, Teladoc's 39 percent growth almost seems paltry. But shifting back to reality, by any measure 39 percent is a good performance. A global leader in virtual care, Teladoc's second-quarter revenue of $94.6 million was an increase of 112 percent over the previous year. Its visits from paid members also continue to skyrocket, increasing to 436,000 for the second quarter of 2018, up from 309,000 one year earlier.

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ABIOMED

Those who invested in Massachusetts-based Abiomed at the start of the year could have more than doubled their money in about 10 months. A company that manufactures medical implant devices, such as heart pumps, Abiomed reported third-quarter fiscal 2018 revenue of $154 million, an increase of 34 percent compared to the same period of fiscal 2017. Worldwide revenue from its Impella heart pumps alone totaled $148 million. That's an increase of 36 percent from the previous year.
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FORTINET

With year-to-date growth in its stock value of about 60 percent, Fortinet would also have been a good addition to any portfolio this year. A $1,000 investment in the California company, which develops and markets cybersecurity software, appliances and services, would have increased to more than $1,600 as the year draws to a close. What's more, analysts predict this stock will continue to soar and should be kept on the short-list of those looking for a fresh stock pick.
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ICON PLC

Though Icon may not exactly be a household name, it has experienced an incredibly solid performance in 2018 (reporting record net business wins of $605 million during the third-quarter alone) and 2019 looks equally promising. Some analysts are projecting the medical research company will increase earnings per share by 12 percent in the coming year, while revenue is expected to head upward about 8 percent. The contract research organization helps drug makers coordinate and conduct clinical trials required for regulatory approval in the U.S., Europe and other markets. In other words, a service that is and will continue to be, in hot demand. Its stock is up nearly 17 percent year to date.

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ZOETIS

Once part of Pfizer, this market leading animal medicine maker is doing just fine on its own. The company reported revenue of $1.5 billion for the third quarter of 2018, an increase of 10 percent compared with the third quarter of 2017. Its stock, meanwhile, is up nearly 16 percent this year. Millennials are apparently creating something of a "bull market" in household pets, which has been good news for Zoetis.

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THE YEAR AHEAD

While the market has been diving lately, Entergy analyst Adams says it has actually pulled back to reflect more reasonable valuations. As for 2019, Adams noted that "investors seem to think slowing economic growth, rising inflation, and trade tariffs have taken a bite out of earnings growth for companies and they're pricing in this outcome as more likely than not." On the upside, however, retail sales data continues to come in above expectations, indicating that the consumer is alive and well, which bodes well for stocks.

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