A Look at My Most Prescient Stock Picks for 2015

I write about stocks every day. I’ve written over 750 articles (you can sift through all of them here) in the year-plus I’ve been at InvestorPlace.com, and in the vast majority of them, I’m making a call on the direction of a stock, commodity or particular market.

A Look at Prescient Predictions of Best Stocks in 2015With that many shots on goal, I’m guaranteed to make a good pick every once in a while. I’m also guaranteed to make some bad ones, and I’ve laid out some of my biggest blunders of 2015 in a separate article here.

Yes, some of my stock picks for 2015 were so egregious they demanded their own article — an article in which I apologize, note what I did wrong and hopefully learn something. That’s ultimately how we can become better investors. We have to be honest with ourselves!

But here I’ll focus on my best stocks and predictions of 2015.

A few of them I’m quite proud of.

To me, one should be proud of their market predictions if they have one of the following characteristics: excellent timing, unusual specificity, a high-magnitude move in the predicted direction or being bold and contrarian. The herd mentality is difficult to overcome.

Without further ado, here are some of my best predictions and stock picks from 2015, separated into a few different categories:

Macro Predictions

Jan. 22 — One of my first major predictions of the New Year would fully materialize seven months later, in August. In 3 Reasons China’s Stock Market Will Crash in 2015 I noted that the Chinese stock market was incredibly overheated and laid out three catalysts that could ignite the selloff. Ultimately, it was No. 3, “secular growth deceleration,” that led China to weaken the yuan, giving investors the heebie-jeebies and causing an all-out market crash.

April 13 — I correctly predicted a stock market correction, defined as a pullback of 10% or more. My reason? On average, a market correction happens every 18 months, and it had been more than 3.5 years since the last one, the second-longest period without a correction in the postwar era. The Dow Jones Industrial Average would enter a correction on Aug. 21, the S&P 500 on Aug. 24.

Predictions of Specific Events

Feb. 17 — Two weeks before I wrote “5 Reasons the Staples (SPLS) Office Depot (ODP) Merger Is DOA”, the Staples – Office Depot merger was announced. The merger would combine the two most dominant office supply companies in the U.S., but an overwhelming number of investors didn’t think the deal would face serious antitrust scrutiny from the FTC.

Well, it did. On Monday, the FTC blocked the deal on antitrust grounds. Staples plans to fight the decision, but for now, the deal is dead in the water, as I expected. All one has to do is check the comments section of my February article to see that was not a popular position.

March 16 — Plug Power (PLUG) Stock Primed to Miss on Earnings. Plug Power (PLUG) was set to deliver quarterly earnings, but I was confident they’d be miserable, and even worse than the 4 cents per share Wall Street expected. The decision to delay the release of their 10-K gave it away. The next day, PLUG reported double the losses analysts expected and the stock plunged 10%.

Bullish Calls

Oct. 20 —Amazon Earnings Preview: Why Q3 Should Catapult AMZN Stock Past $600. A mosaic of clues, including the success of Amazon (AMZN) Prime Day, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and a string of earnings surprises caused me to predict that AMZN stock would soar past $600/share after its Q3 earnings announcement. With shares at $560, that meant the stock would need to jump 7%, which is quite a lot for such a short amount of time.

My conviction was so strong that I bought Amazon stock myself the day after writing the article, and I still own it today. Less than a week later, shares were trading at $610 a pop after phenomenal earnings sparked largely by the overwhelming success of AWS. AMZN was one of the best stocks in the entire market this year, with shares more than doubling.

Dec. 29, 2014 — Top 5 Stocks to Buy for 2015. This is the only article I wrote at the top of the year that outlines a portfolio of stocks I picked to outperform in 2015. Although there were several losers, the enormous winners easily overcompensated for those losses, and an equally weighted portfolio would be up over 30% in a year where the S&P traded essentially sidways. The picks:

Boston Beer Co (SAM): -29%

Walgreens (WBA): +12%

Ulta Salon (ULTA): +46%

Chevron (CVX): -19%

Wayfair (W): +146%

April 29 — Facebook (FB) Stock Isn’t Expensive … It’s a STEAL. Making no equivocations, I detailed why Facebook (FB), then at $80, represented a great opportunity. It’s still one of the best stocks in all of tech.

May 11 — Wayfair (W) Stock: STILL the Best Retail Stock to Buy. More than 4 months after picking Wayfair as one of the five best stocks to buy for 2015, my pick was up 53%. Now, it’s sitting on gains upwards of 140%. I’m glad I reiterated this one.

Bearish Calls

Jan. 13 — 3 Doomed Stocks on the Path to $0. These three stocks are down 55%, 40% and 91%, respectively, since I penned this article. It’s perhaps my greatest multistock prediction piece of the year.

May 11 — Viggle (VGGL) Stock: 60% Rally Is Undeserved. Calling Viggle’s (VGGL) fundamentals “comically awful,” I strongly urged investors to avoid this stock. It’s down 82% since the writing.

1/22 — Arena Pharmaceuticals (ARNA) Stock Crippled By Risk, Dilution. “I wouldn’t touch ARNA stock with a ten-foot pole,” I wrote, and I’m glad I didn’t. Shares of Arena Pharmaceuticals (ARNA) are down 58% since publication.

Some other notable bearish of mine this year include Shake Shack (SHAK), Twitter (TWTR), Chipotle (CMG), Keurig (GMCR) and Axovant Sciences (AXON).

Again, this article only focuses on the best stocks I picked in 2015 — I had plenty of losers, too. If you’d like to bring up any old articles you’d like me to address directly, feel free to shoot me a line or call me out in the comments! Here’s to a prosperous 2016.

As of this writing John Divine was long W and AMZN common stock, and held Feb 2016 $20 AXON puts. You can follow him on Twitter at @divinebizkid or email him at editor@investorplace.com.

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