Alpha Central: Alive and Well

It’s become something of an annual pilgrimage. The Mid-Michigan chapter of NAIC, the umbrella organization for investment clubs, started a stock picking challenge twelve years ago. Clubs and individuals submit their entries and the results are tracked over the course of one “Halloween” to the next. (The annual breakfast is always between Halloween and Thanksgiving.)

This year, a club that goes by the name of Street Smarts (Saginaw, Michigan) took home the top prize by turning $100,000 into $175,000 over the 12-month period. 75%. Yowza. Wowza.

They were joined by another (16) clubs with returns besting 30% — in other words, out performing the market by at least five percentage points. In contrast, only 12-of-28 failed to beat the market … and the average result was 29%. Their consensus selections essentially matched the market — but the track record is strong as the consensus portfolio has beat the market in 10-of-11 years.

Kudos. I attend a lot of these. I watched recently as similar groups in other parts of the country handed winner’s certificates to portfolios finishing closer to 30%. Eddy Elfenbein of is closing in on another victorious year — hopefully his 7th in a row — with a Buy List portfolio tracking at 34-35% YTD.

The leaders of our annual Groundhog Day-to-Groundhog Day Iditarod are no slouches, either. Our defending champion investment club, the Broad Assets (St. Louis) stand at +83% in the current contest. (Since 2/2/2013) We chronicled their exploits for 2012 here as they finished #1 with a +27.5% total return last year. The finish line for our contest (2/2/2014) is still on the horizon, but Broad Assets has a mammoth lead going into the home stretch.

2013 Groundhog Challenge Scoreboard

We’ll be taking entries for Groundhog 2014 during the last week of January. All individuals and groups (clubs) are invited to submit 5-20 investments.

The fact that 57% of the Mid-Michigan entrants beat the market is not unusual. 51.7% of participating Groundhogs have done the same over the trailing 8 years.

It’s how they/we do it that matters. The swinging-from-the-heels is actually kept to a minimum. The list of top performers include Apple (AAPL), Bio-Reference Labs (BRLI), Coach (COH), Cognizant Technology (CTSH), Google (GOOG), IPC Hospitalist (IPCM), Qualcomm (QCOM), ResMed (RMD) … you get the idea. Many of our community favorites represented by our 40 most-widely held companies are present and accounted for, along with a suitable dose of promising small- and medium-sized companies that keeps the overall growth forecast of the portfolio where it should be (12% or more).

Companies of Interest

Would you be surprised if I told you that Edwards Lifesciences (EW) is on the radar screen of these successful Mid-Michigan stock pickers? Because it is. You shouldn’t be surprised. The road to Alpha is paved with companies with superior return forecasts in combination with high quality rankings.

Materially Stronger: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), McKesson (MCK)

Materially Weaker: Cutera (CUTR), Thoratec (THOR), Nissan Motor (NSANY), Caterpillar (CAT) 1, Astec Industries (ASTE), II-VI (IIVI), Rofin-Sinar (RSTI), Abaxis (ABAX)

1 Would not usually make this list, but dropped from $105 to $95.

Market Barometers

The median Value Line low total return forecast (VLLTR) is now 3.7%, down from 3.9% last week.

MANIFEST 40 (March 2013)

The Stocks You Follow: March 2013 Update

We’ve always believed that the collective decisions made by our community of long-term investors is worth huddling over … a place where ideas are born.

Apple (AAPL) continues at the top of the leader board, a position the company has held for several months. AAPL first appeared on this listing on 9/24/2009 and proceeded to ascend to the summit.

Performance Results

It’s here that your favorites shine. The average annualized RELATIVE return for the current tracking portfolio is +4.2%. (The absolute return for the tracking portfolio since inception is 6.4%.)

The accuracy rating (% of outperforming entries) of the current selections is 59.0%.

Including all selections since inception (7.5 years) the annualized relative return of the MANIFEST 40 is +3.0%.

The figures in parentheses are the position of the company during the December 2012 listing of the MANIFEST 40. For example, FactSet Research (FDS) advanced from #17 to #13 over the last three months.


What companies are making the strongest gains among the consensus collection? This may be indicative of strong fundamentals (combined with attractive prices and return forecasts) and probably warrants further study.

The stocks making the largest advances (by % of dashboards) since 12/31/2012 are: QUALCOMM (QCOM), Coach (COH) and Bio-Reference Labs (BRLI).

The newcomer this quarter is Coca-Cola (KO).

Strongest Performers

The top performers in the MANIFEST 40 tracking portfolio are: