Take $1,000, Trade Once a Day, Make $264 Billion—You Could Have Done It in 2013

If you can send any article back in time to December 31, 2012, make it this one.
Reuters

What if you knew which stocks to invest in every day? What if every bet in the markets was a sure thing? What if you could put all of your eggs in one basket and never lose? How much could you have made in 2013 if you started with $1,000 to invest?

Billions.

A trader who began the year with $1,000 in her brokerage account and put all of her money in each day’s best-performing equity in the S&P 500—day after day—for the 241 trading days so far this year would have $264 billion in her account today.

By March 4, her gains would have reached $53,200, exceeding the US household’s median annual income. She would have made a million dollars by April 23 while invested in Netflix, and a week later she would have doubled when her stake in Regeneron Pharmaceuticals grew 10.3% on May 1.

Her first billion would have come when AutoDesk saw 7.69% growth on August 23. By October 17, she would have had $10 billion. Less than a week later it would have been over $100 billion. In November, she would have become the richest person in the world.

Over the course of the year, she would have never taken a loss on any day. Here’s a day-by-day calendar of the S&P stock she would have had to invest 100% of her portfolio in to pull off the perfect trading year. (You can enter ticker symbols you don’t know here to see the full company names.)

Although the S&P 500 has—as its name implies—500 members, only 129 companies were top performers on any of the 240 trading days this year. Here are some of the best:

Of course, once your investment had grown past a certain point, it would be impossible to put into any stock without drastically affecting the stock’s price. In many cases, investing this volume of cash would be impossible—in some cases there wouldn’t have been enough shares to buy. For our analysis we also did not take into account trading fees nor changes in the composition of the S&P index. We also assumed that all companies allowed for investment in fractional shares.

Moreover, even if one made the impossibly optimistic assumption that picking the best stock of the day is a 50-50 guess, there would be only a one-in-3.53 trevigintillion (3.53 x 1072) chance of matching these results. 

Presented by

David Yanofsky is a reporter creating data driven graphics and features for Quartz.

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Videos

Why Is Google Making Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

More in Business

Just In