The Jim Cramer Problem

Market pundits, there out there every year, predicting, this market up, that market down, this stock will do well and that stock is in trouble. In the main most of these pundits have less accuracy of an Anzac day two up game. That is to say they are right at best 50% of the time.

As a case study we look at Jim Cramer and American pundit, who is the star of CNBC’s Mad Money. We don’t dislike Cramer more or less than any other pundit, he is merely an example of the problem pundits and their followers face.

Cramer’s methods are very different to Shartru Wealth Management’s. We believe in a long term investment philosophy that focuses on diversification, capturing market returns, minimising transaction costs and only making tactical investments where their is a demonstrable advantage.

The Jim Cramer Problem first featured on our blog Market pundits, more wrong than right.

Following is a MarketWatch article that reflects the challenge Professor David England issued to Jim Cramer. The challenge is designed to measure Cramer’s stock picks against the broader market. The results below are not flattering, but should be read in the context that stock picking and ownership is a long term investment and the results of Cramer’s stock picks is short term.

Conversely Cramer by virtue of his hyperbole does encourage “trading behaviour” (short termism). You will see that Cramer for all the talk and colour and movement has achieved -7.09% vs the market at -3.88%.

Negative returns in markets are not uncommon, and with out a long term investment philosophy, you could conclude that all Cramer has done, is pay brokerage to stockbrokers to achieve a return that is worse than the market.

Opinion: Jim Cramer loses big in this stock-picking test

Buying stocks based on an expert’s list is often a losing move

On April 6, 2015, CNBC host and best-selling author Jim Cramer wrote an article: “Jim Cramer’s Picks — Here are 49 Stocks to Buy Right Now,” published on Cramer made a strong case for the 49 stocks.

“Every single one of these companies reported excellent last quarters, and with no exceptions their charts are pretty much perfectly made for this downturn,” Cramer wrote. Even if there was a correction or downturn, Cramer wrote that these stocks would do well.

David O. England, a retired finance professor from Carbondale, Ill., decided to test Cramer’s stock buy list. On April 6, England bought $1,000 of each security on Cramer’s list in a paper-trade account (not including commissions) at the close of the following day.

England bet Cramer a dinner at the 17th Street BBQ restaurant in Murphysboro, Ill., one of the best rib houses in the country. If Cramer’s picks were profitable, England would pay. If Cramer’s picks were unprofitable, Cramer would pay. But Cramer never responded to the wager after repeated email and phone calls. (Here is the original MarketWatch column describing the rules of “The Cramer Challenge”)

Absent Cramer’s cooperation, England went ahead and tracked the portfolio’s performance. England kept a weekly record of the results for the last six months. He also had the results audited by an independent third party.

The final result? Even after the most recent 1,000-point Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -1.02%  rally, Cramer got a failing grade. Although Cramer promised his picks could survive any downturn, these stocks didn’t survive during the market’s brutal third quarter. Only 14 of Cramer’s 49 stock picks closed higher after six months than their April trading price, a paltry 28% success rate.

Bottom line: England won the bet. (Note: The final results of Cramer’s picks are at the bottom of this column.)

Cramer did not respond to e-mailed requests this week seeking comment about the recommended stocks’ performance. And England points out that he is not attacking Cramer personally, but takes issue with the quality of his stock picks. “It bothered me that so many experts publish buy lists,” England says, “but you never hear about the list again. I wanted readers to know that buying stocks based on a list is often a recipe for disaster.”

Here are five other lessons that England shared:

  1. Be careful about buying stocks based on a list. It’s better if you do your own homework.
  1. In a downturn or bear market, even shares of “good” companies can go down, and by a lot. Look at Apple AAPL, -1.92% or Wal-Mart WMT, -0.62% , for example.
  1. Be cautious about following anyone, especially well-known gurus. It’s okay to listen, but in the end you have to do your own research. But to blindly buy stocks based on a recommendation from a guru, a stockbroker, or a friend, usually leads to losses.
  1. If you think about it, the list of 49 stocks are just 49 tips, and if there is anything you should know, never buy stocks based on tips. It’s rare that a tip works out. And if you buy based on a tip, will that person tell you when to sell? For example, if you had bought those 49 stocks, when do you sell?
  1. Instead of “buy” lists, market gurus should call these “watch” lists. It would save investors of lot of time and aggravation. After all, Cramer’s 49 picks were supposed to protect you from a downturn. Unfortunately, these 49 stocks did no such thing.

Jim Cramer’s 49 stocks recommended six months ago:

Ticker Company Six-month return (4/7/15 – 10/7/15)

FTNT, -0.89% Fortinet Inc. +24.60%

UA, -0.43% Under Armour Inc. +22.54%

PANW, -0.37% Palo Alto Networks Inc. +20.54%

MDLZ, -1.47% Mondelez International Inc. +19.78%

HRL, -0.73% Hormel Foods Corp. +10.38%

DHI, -1.26% D.R. Horton Inc. +9.10%

AZO, -1.10% AutoZone Inc. +6.19%

CI, -0.35% Cigna Corp.

EW, -0.29% Edwards Lifesciences Corp. +4.71%

HUM, -0.27% Humana Inc.

CBRL, +0.23% Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. +1.25%

LB, -0.88% L Brands Inc.

DRI, -1.01% Darden Restaurants Inc.

SJM, -0.49% J.M. Smucker Co.

LEN, -0.91% Lennar Corp. -0.49%

UNH, -1.08% UnitedHealth Group Inc. -0.78%

KR, -1.13% Kroger Co. -1.75%

CVS, -0.98% CVS Health Corp. -2.06%

MNST, -0.85% Monster Beverage Corp. -2.08%

COST, -0.74% Costco Wholesale Corp. -2.52%

JAH, +0.67% Jarden Corp. -4.01%

BSX, -0.91% Boston Scientific Corp. -4.92%

PRGO, -0.37% Perrigo Co. -5.22%

AVGO, -1.51% Avago Technologies Ltd. -5.58%

TOL, -0.66% Toll Brothers Inc. -5.89%

ROST, -1.36% Ross Stores Inc. -6.12%

AN, -1.03% AutoNation Inc. -6.37%

MDT, -0.79% Meditronic Plc -8.08%

ADI, -2.18% Analog Devices Inc. -8.48%

DG, -0.32% Dollar General Corp. -8.78%

AGN, -0.81% Allergan Plc -8.99%

CYBR, -1.14% CyberArk Software Ltd. -11.08%

DKS, +0.40% Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. -12.48%

CERN, -0.76% Cerner Corp. -13.22%

SWKS, -2.98% Skyworks Solutions Inc. -13.61%

CAH, -1.40% Cardinal Health Inc. -13.78%

HBI, +1.20% Hanesbrands Inc. -14.32%

MCK, -0.76% McKesson Corp. -16.62%

ABC, -1.25% AmerisourceBergen Corp. -17.52%

KMX, -1.08% CarMax Inc. -19.10%

JACK, -0.23% Jack in the Box Inc. -19.25%

FEYE, -1.10% FireEye Inc. -19.52%

DLTR, -0.52% Dollar Tree Inc. -21.94%

M, -1.13% Macy’s Inc. -24.75%

URBN, -1.47% Urban Outfitters Inc. -29.54%

DDS, -3.24% Dillard’s Inc. -33.59%

CY, -0.91% Cypress Semiconductor Corp. -33.62%

QRVO, -1.47% Qorvo Inc. -37.80%

KSS, -1.57% Kohl’s Corp. -41.11%

Average -7.09%

S&P 500 SPX, -0.94% -3.88%