Stocks That Went Up in 2008 | Plus ETFs, Bonds, Gold

Toward the end of bull markets, it’s smart to see what stocks went up in past bear markets for recession proof investment ideas. While there have been some short and minor bear markets since 2008, the severe 2008 bear market continues to provide excellent data and investing lessons for everyone. 

Stocks that went up in 2008 include Dollar Tree, Amgen, Hasbro, Dwight & Church, Celgene, Gilead, Walmart, McDonald’s, Ross Stores, Budweiser, AutoZone, and H&R Block.

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Stocks going up while the market is going down are rare since most stocks move in the same overall direction as the market, especially with the reign of index based funds. 

Some of the companies on the short list of stocks that went up in 2008 aren’t surprising but a few of them will surprise you, so keep reading. 

Many of the stocks that went up in 2008 are from companies that sell products considered consumer staples as explained more below.

But a few of these trend beating stocks are from companies that made smart strategic corporate moves in 2008 which increased profits, and also the price of their stock, as you’ll see in this article. 

Shopping Habits During Recessions

I recall from prior bear markets that the stocks of companies that sell very low priced products, such as Dollar Tree, tend to hold up better in bear markets. This is because people who bought medium priced products before the related recession switch to lower priced products.

And low net worth consumers who already bought low priced products continue to buy low priced products during recessions.

Consumer Staples During Recessions

There are certain things that humans need to maintain a quality life even during recessions, such as toothpaste and food. Such items are known as consumer staples.

The stocks of companies selling consumer staples tend to drop less than sectors during bear markets and related recessions.

For example, during the stock market crash from March 2000 to October 2002, consumer staples actually rose 1.2% amidst the falling overall stock market. Consumer staples didn’t do as well in the financial crisis from October 2007 through March 2009, however.

The consumer staple category fell a huge 28.5% in the 2008 bear market. This sounds bad until you remember that S&P 500 dropped over 56% in that time frame!

Several of the stocks that rose in 2008 were selling consumer staples as explained more in my related post What Goes Up When Stocks Go Down?

Stocks That Went Up in 2008 and Why

The following stocks went up in 2008 for various reasons. You’ll notice sector themes here but a few surprises, too.

Companies That Sell Low Priced Products

Ross Stores – ROST

Ross stores rose 17.6% in 2008 as consumer’s cut their spending on clothes and household items by shopping at this discount retailer.

Walmart – WMT

Walmart was up 20% in 2008 outperforming the S&P 500 by 58.5%. This stock falls into the category of selling low priced products as explained above.

McDonald’s – MCD

McDonald’s rose 8.5% in 2008 beating the S&P 500 index by 47%. Their solid dividend was given credit for the stock’s good performance.

It makes sense that diners saved money by moving from fuller service restaurants to cheaper McDonald’s.

Revenue and income both grew in 2008. People must eat to live, and they eat cheaper food during bad financial times.

Dollar Tree – DLTR

Like Walmart and Ross, consumers shopped at lower priced stores.

Dollar Tree’s stock returned 60.8% in 2008 beating S&P 500 stocks by 99.3%. The company doubled the store count accepting food stamps which helped increase store traffic and thus, sales.

Consumer Staples Stocks That Rose in 2008

These companies provide products and services consumers just can’t do without, even after cutting spending.

Church & Dwight – CHD

Church & Dwight had a total return of 4% in 2008. This consumer staple company sells indispensable product names including Arm & Hammer, Oxiclean and Trojan (uh-hem).

Sales grew in both 2008 and 2009 for this dividend paying company.

AutoZone – AZO

In most of America, we must have our cars. But AutoZone can also fairly be called a countercyclical company.

Like me, you may remember when many older cars were on the road for several years after the 2008 recession as consumers cut back on major purchases. (That’s when I bought our two “new” used cars!)

The automakers were suffering but AutoZone was doing just fine selling parts to keep those older cars running. It also helped that AutoZone regularly repurchased shares of it’s companies. This would support falling prices.

And this strategy also allowed the company to buy it’s own shares at cheap prices. 

By the way, now, I’ve noticed sparkling new luxury cars are plentiful again, at least in Austin. It’s enough to make me wonder why someone hasn’t created a used car indicator to predict bear stock markets.

H&R Block – HRB

Death and income taxes are a fact of life. In 2008, tax preparation was another thing US consumers couldn’t forego even during hard financial times.

Strategies That Increased Earnings

Some companies were just smart despite the recession. Dollar Tree and AutoZone took steps to increase stock value in 2008 as you saw above. Here are two more companies that did, too.

Budweiser – BUD

Budweiser was up 39.4% outperforming the S&P 500 by 77.9%. Budweiser is another company that had triple benefits in 2008. First, people drink more to numb the pain during bad times. Second, Budweiser sells cheap beer.

My guess is that many more expensive imported beer drinkers switched to Bud.

Third, Budweiser bought Anheuser-Busch, thereby increasing their market enormously.

Hasbro – HAS

It surprised me to find that Hasbro went up in 2008 since children’s toys are not a major priority during hard financial times. Toy maker Hasbro rose a very respectable 16.8% in 2008.

It may have not been so much that people buy their kid’s toys no matter what as other factors that made Hasbro stock go up in the 2008 bear market.

During the year they acquired Cranium and signed an agreement with Universal Pictures to produce several films. They also had good performance from their licensed brands.

Plus, like beer, movies are a great escape during bad times. And it’s cheaper to watch a movie than many other forms of entertainment.

Pharmaceutical Stocks

Americans need their medicine, perhaps to counter all the increased McDonald’s hamburger and fries consumption in 2008. And again, the fact that insurance companies (or the government) pay for most medicine helps pharmaceutical sales during recessions. (What an interesting society we live in.)

Amgen – AMGN

For example, Amgen was up 24.3% in the 2008 bear market beating the S&P 500 by 62.8%. Revenue was up 3% in 2008 since consumers need medicine regardless of the economy. Amgen, however, smartly bought back their stock shares during the financial crisis helping boost the stock price. Amgen’s stock rose in 2008 due to both the demand for medicine and the share buybacks.

Celgene – CELG

Celgene’s revenue grew 59% in 2008 demonstrating again that medicine is one thing consumers won’t or can’t go without.

Gilead – GILD

Here’s another case of people requiring medicine even when times are hard. I did notice that in 2006 Gilead bought both Corus Pharma and Raylo Chemicals. In 2007 Gildead entered a licensing agreement with Parion for respiratory therapy products. Like most of the companies here, management was actively taking steps to improve revenue despite the recession.

ETF’s That Went Up in 2008

Picking individual stocks likely to do well in a bear market or recession can be like picking a needle in a haystack. Picking an asset class ETF (Exchange Traded Fund) can be easier  ahead of recessions since an asset class is being represented instead of a single stock. Advanced investors rotate out of risky assets and into less riskly assets as uncertainty increases. 

ETF’s can be bought and sold in your brokerage account just like stocks, making them an excellent stock alternative to buying individual stocks. ETFs also provide instant diversification which lowers the investment risk that comes from a single stock. In fact, I invest an ETF portfolio that has had a higher return with less risk over the past 50 years as explained in my Allocate Smartly review

Since stocks as a whole were down in 2008, stock ETFs were down with the exception of short stock ETFs. Shorting stocks and ETF’s are for very advanced investors only and not covered on this website.

There were ETFs in sectors besides stocks that went up in the 2008 bear market, however, as addressed next.

Treasury Bond ETF’s in 2008

Treasury bonds have done well since 1990 during most stock bear markets. Bonds are the most common defensive asset held because they are believed to be non-correlated with stocks. Don’t assume, however that because bonds did well in the 2008 bear market, this the often assumed stock bond inverse price movement is a given. 

Nevertheless, in 2008 only Vanguard Extended Duration Treasury Index, EDV, returned a huge 55.46%. This ETF  tracks a zero coupon extended-duration US Treasury bond index.

Another plainer vanilla Treasury bond ETF that was up in 2008 was TLT, the iShares Barclay 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF. It returned 33.77%.

While bonds have sometimes been an excellent way to offset stock market risk in a portfolio, once the bear market ends they are prone to tumble since they are used primarily as a defensive investment

Prior to the 1990’s, stock and bonds were positively correlated more often than negatively correlated, however.  

Gold in 2008

Gold is often a good hedge during recessions and related bear markets. While there are individual gold stocks, there are also gold ETFs. For example, the gold ETF, IAU for iShares COMEX Gold Trust, had a return of 5.42% in 2008.

Gold is often still thought of as the best defensive asset during financial turmoil, although gold price movement is tied to global supply demand, and people buy less gold jewelry, etc., during recessions. 

Global Bonds in 2008 

Let’s see what global bonds did in 2008 as well as the other bear markets of the 2000s decade.

Interestingly, in both 2008 and 2002, global bond indexes went up brilliantly in addition to Treasury bonds in comparison to stocks. In 2002, for example, the Russell 1000 large cap growth stock index had a return of -27.88%. The JPMorgan Global Government Bond unhedged index returned 19.37% that same year.

Then in 2008, the Russell 1000 large cap growth stock index had a return of -38.44% while the JPMorgan Global Government Bond Index (unhedged) returned 12.00% that same year.

It’s also important to remember that bond price movement is heavily tied to the actions of the Federal Reserve and other agencies governing monetary policy, as well as interest rate cycles.  

Summary for Stocks That Rose in 2008

As you can see, it helps to evaluate an investment from a perspective of managing risk within a portfolio as well as finding potential opportunity based on market cycles. 

The stocks that went up in 2008 fit three major categories:

  • Consumer staples or mandatory products and services
  • Medicine
  • Companies that strategically increased shareholder value

And then, U.S. Treasury bond and global bond ETFs went up as most stocks went down in 2008. A gold ETF also held it’s ground.

While the companies and sectors may vary somewhat, similar themes tend to play out in bear markets making a few investments winners amidst the carnage for proactive investors. Knowing this can help investors lower risk while building wealth when stock markets are going both up and down.  

It’s important to remember, however, that macro factors such as the economy and Federal Reserve actions primarily drive investment prices. 


The best place to start is with my Ultimate Wealth Plan. You can get it here now.

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As always, research carefully before making any investments,  as nothing here is meant to be personal financial advice.


FAQ Related to Stocks That Went Up in 2008:

Are Recessions and Bear Markets the Same Thing?

While bear markets and recessions are two different things, the two are usually intertwined. Bear markets usually happen as a result of a slowing economy, or Federal Reserve actions made to avoid a recession. Then the eventual bear stock market makes a recession more probable and worse.

Cycles in both the economy and the financial markets that lead to bull markets and occasional bear markets, or even stock market crashes, are an ongoing reality for investors. That’s why I help my financial coaching clients estimate how a stock market crash will affect their portfolio based on bear market history. This helps manage risk in the stock market beforehand as well as temper investor emotions from market cycles

While it’s hard to know if stocks will go up or down with timing precision, we know for a fact it will do both barring a disaster, so as investors we may as well prepare for this reality by estimating how much we stand to lose and assessing how to make money during bear markets while managing risk.  


ETF and Sector 2008 Performance Research:

Stocks That Went Up in 2008 Research:   

The information on this website is for education only and is not to be construed as personal financial advice.