It has been a wild 2011, and like all financial journalists and stock-pickers out there, I made my share of bonehead calls. Case in point: A painful endorsement of Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) at the beginning of the year when it was worth twice what it is now!
But some of my writing proved to be right on the money. My take on some big issues like the debt debacle, for instance, as well as specific recommendations — mostly buy recommendations on dividend stocks and sell-side calls on some high-profile blue chips facing headwinds.
I don’t pretend to have a perfect track record. A review of my columns on InvestorPlace shows that I basically moved with the market this year — sideways, with a mixed bag of good calls and bad ones. Most often I managed to get it right and wrong in the same article — such as a March call on Walgreen (NYSE:WAG) that said Walgreen stock was a bargain after an earnings miss. If you bought when I wrote my column on March 23, you saw 15% gains in just two months — then the bottom fell out of the market during the summer, and WAG remains in the red on the year.
That pretty much sums up what this year was like for most investors, I reckon.
In the spirit of disclosure, I thought it would be nice to share some of my worst advice as well as my best predictions from the past year. Here they are:
Debt Crisis Commentary
In an Aug. 11 column on MarketWatch and here on InvestorPlace, I named “three bedrock blue chips to buy at fire sale prices” that included Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) and AT&T (NYSE:T). AT&T has been lackluster, but Wal-Mart is up almost 25% since that writing and Cisco is up 35%.
I am particularly proud of this call because it came coupled with an earlier column about the August S&P downgrade of U.S. debt. In an article widely distributed on MarketWatch, InvestorPlace, Huffington Post and others, I asserted that the downgrade changed little — it wouldn’t fix Washington, it wouldn’t affect the economy and it wouldn’t affect Treasury rates. When the market opened down 500-plus points on Monday, some folks thought I was crazy.
Time, it seems, has proven me right … so far.
Good Sell Calls
Picking stocks to sell was easy in 2011. But I’ll stick to some of the articles about big-name stocks that made big moves:
In April, I warned of some big-name stocks to avoid. The market’s flop helped prove this call right — but the bearish take on Sprint (NYSE:S) was particularly well-timed. The stock flopped more than 50% since the column was published April 14.
And in what I hope was one of the most obvious calls of the year, in February I discussed whether the Market Vectors Egypt Index Fund (NYSE:EGPT) was a bargain or a bust amid unrest in the region — and came down clearly on the sell side. The ETF is off 50% since then.