Clueless 2013 Investment Ideas

January 3, 2013

Wall Street rolls out the old crystal balls

Just got a lovely nugget in my email inbox from Robert Elder, the Communications Manager for the Texas State Securities Board (the "TSSB").  Unlike many messages from his regulatory colleagues at other state and federal agencies, the stuff from Elder is quite possibly the most consistently outstanding commentary from any securities industry regulator. No, I don't always agree with TSSB's content but I do respect folks who speak plainly, call it as they see it, and don't persist in publishing the same self-serving public relations pap that oozes from far too many regulatory organizations. Elder's missives frequently have a nice edge, replete with a funny slant on some of his more barbed shots.

Among the fun tidbits from the Jan. 3, 2013 edition of the "State Securities Board Bulletin" is this lovely broadside (and a well deserved salvo at that!):


The surest sign of the new year for investors? It's the seemingly endless recommendations by financial experts on the best places to put your money in 2013. You know the drill: the personal finance magazines touting the best stocks or funds for '13; mutual fund managers touting, well, themselves; and financial commentators confidently picking stocks and predicting the directions of the markets, while others confidently predict different stocks and different directions for the markets. Here are a few things to remember as the predictions industry does its thing early in the new year:

  • The old standby, past performance does not predict future success, applies to systems such asMorningstar's star ratings for mutual funds. A five-star rating, Morningstar's highest, only means that a fund has performed well in the past. A high rating says absolutely nothing about a fund's future performance; there are no crystal balls.
  • Whether it's picking stocks you can own "forever," stocks for the next decade, or stocks for the next year, financial magazines generally do a poor job. The more responsible publications will, after a bad year, own up to their performance. They rarely look back on predictions they made a decade ago, however.
  • Many financial gurus' exaggerated predictions are designed to grab headlines, not provide insight. They also have an underwhelming track record. CXO Advisory Group LLC tracked the approximately 6,500 predictions of 68 market experts from 2005 through 2012 and found the median accuracy of their predictions was 47%. So you could pay attention to the gurus, or flip a coin