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Recently, I published an article on water utility stocks, almost half of which were over a century old. Some investors consider old companies as stodgy and has-been's.

However, if you look at the performance of five of the oldest publicly traded companies for the last year, you would find otherwise. The average return for the 'old five' was 13%, beating the NASDAQ and the S&P 500 for 2006.

The oldest company on the list is Bowne & Co. (BNE), the financial printing company founded in 1775, which had a return of 9% for the year. The best of the oldies is Bank of New York Company, Inc. (BK) founded 1784, up 24%. Here is the list:

Bowne & Co. Inc. [BNE]: 9%, Founded 1775
Bank of New York Company [BK]: 24%, Founded 1784
Washington Trust Bancorp (WASH): 11%, Founded 1800
Valspar Corp. (VAL): 12%, Founded 1806
York Water Company (YORW): 8%, Founded 1816

Source: Old Companies Age Gracefully