How the tipsters fared in 2018

In a tough year for equities the best the newspaper and magazine tipsters could hope for was to preserve their readers’ capital. With the FTSE All-Share down 13% in 2018 and America’s S&P 500 registering a 6.2% drop, only the Evening Standard managed to avoid a loss, with its portfolio returning just under 1% over the year. That paltry return was nevertheless enough to prolong the London paper’s reign at the top of the table following a strong showing last year. The Standard’s best tip was legal platform Keystone Law, which gained 92.6% in 2018. It blames “ill-judged punts on outsourcers” for the weaker overall performance.

The next best performers were magazines, with the picks from US publication Barron’s falling 2.2%, followed by Shares and the Investors Chronicle on -6.4% and -10.2% respectively. The best Barron’s tip turned out to be health insurer Anthem, which rose by 26.2%.

Shares’ best performer was vehicle testing expert AB Dynamics, which rose 51%. However, it is not entirely clear if the magazine is playing fair – it chose to cut its losses on funeral services provider Dignity in March after it made “radical changes to its business model”. That crystallised a 49% loss, but it would have been -58.8% if they had held onto the shares until the end of the year. The Daily Telegraph also found itself compelled to retire a tip mid-way through the year when automotive and aerospace parts supplier GKN was delisted in May following a hostile takeover by Melrose.

GKN’s 5% rise was the publication’s best bet, but the portfolio was dragged down by B&M Bargains, which declined by 34%. The paper rather defensively notes that B&M is “one of the ravaged retail sector’s best performers but it still took a battering”.

The most battered share of all was probably The Sunday Times tip Faron Pharmaceuticals, which fell 85% in a single day following disappointing clinical trial results last May. The pick failed to recover and finished the year 93% lower than where it started. Yet even that loss was not enough to drag The Times’s portfolio to the bottom of the table. That honour goes once again to The Guardian, whose annual tips have proven a reliable way to lose money in recent years. The 2018 portfolio was down by 27.7%, with Footasylum the worst performer, falling -89.8%. Still, the Gym Group rose 24.1% on the year.

Share tips for the year ending…
31/12/2016 31/12/2017 31/12/2018
Evening Standard N/A 45.5% +0.87%
Barron’s 2.53% 26.16% -2.2%
Shares 15.94% 12.41% -6.4%
Investors Chronicle 7.79% -3.21% -10.2%
The Daily Telegraph -2.21% 21.53% -13.4%
Money Observer 4.26% 18.16% -17.5%
Daily Mail/The Mail on Sunday -9.44% 20.29% -18.3%
The Sunday Times 26.06% 12.17% -20.1%
The Independent 12.53% 6.13% -26.3%
The Guardian -13.49% -6.22% -27.7%
FTSE 100 14.43% 7.10% -12.5%
FTSE 250 3.71% 14.01% -16%

Annual share portfolios are generally presented in a spirit of seasonal fun. The comparison of the portfolios are not exact, as newspapers assess their performance at slightly different dates before and after the new year. In any case, as Money Observer tipster and regular MoneyWeek columnist Richard Beddard sensibly notes in his own offering for 2019: “I do not think about investing in one-year increments. I look for companies that should prosper for a decade or more”. We hope that applies to some of the picks below.