BNN “Top Picks” accountability

December 3, 20188 Comments

This was a tough year for less active Portfolio Managers. Generally, the more active managers amongst us fared reasonably well, while the buy and hold types did not do quite so well. Click here to see our performance page updated to end of November.  I believe that readers who take the time to view that page will glean some evidence to the merit of an active management approach.


Today, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at my BNN top picks for the year in 2018. I note the date of the show and the rounded prices (up or down) on each pick – and if it’s been sold, or if we still hold it. I note current prices if it hasn’t been sold. A couple of things to understand about these picks: the prices on the date of the show are usually not the prices we paid at ValueTrend. I tend to take stocks that we already own for my picks. It’s that “eat your own cooking” idea. That idea, BTW, is an important policy of the way I manage money. Our in-house models are literally reflections of my personal accounts, and I have 100% of my personal wealth in the ValueTrend models. I eat my own cooking, and I fare only as well as our clients do.


One other note: sometimes I will repeat a past pick on my picks if the price has come down a bit when I’m about to go onto the show. For the purpose of this study, I left these repeats out of the list. You will see the original pick date and its price on that date.



January 8, 2018


Vermillion                           VET-T   $43                                                                                         Now $33

BMO US Bank ETF            ZUB-T    $30. (sold May 4 $29.81)                                                Sold

Brookfield                           BAM-T $44                                                                                          Now $58


Feb 5th 2018


SPDR Consumer Disc.     XLP-US- $56 (sold Sept 15 @ $54.16)                                      Sold

GIB.A-T – $71                                                                                                                                     Now $84


April 2, 2018


Blackberry                           BB-T $15                                                                                              Now $11.60


June 6, 2018


Fairfax                                  FFH-T $722                                                                                         Now $640

Bectin Dickinson               BDX-US $231                                                                                       Now $253

CASH 23%


July 9, 2018


Repeat picks from above


August 24, 2018


Manulife                             MFC-T $24                                                                                          Now $22

Bank of Nova Scotia        BNS-T $78                                                                                            Now $72

CASH 23%


September 26, 2018


SNC Lavalin                         SNC-T $53                                                                                            Now $49

BCE Inc                                 BCE-T $53                                                                                            Now $57


November 1, 2018


Oracle                                  ORCL-US $48                                                                                      Now $50

Microsoft                            MSFT-US $106                                                                                     Now $112





As I said, it has been an interesting year. The BNN picks reflect how we migrated the market gyrations this year.  The fact that we held 23% cash was paramount. The stock picks also reflect that we rotated some of our existing stocks into somewhat safer low-beta positions like XLP, BAM, and BCE .  Finally, we held some decently trending stocks like GIB.A, MSFT, and BDX–of which did quite well despite the investment climate.

Like any strategy, you get your lumps at times – and we certainly did take a licking on a few of the BNN picks via BB, VET, BNS and FFH. It might be of use to know that BB and VET are both minor positions in our Equity Platform (less than 3% each) – so the giant gyrations on those two stocks had far less impact on the portfolio than you might imagine. We have plans on selling BNS and VET as the seasonal periods end for their sectors this winter, and we expect that FFH will ultimately bounce from its long proven point of support near current prices. Blackberry is a small aggressive play for us, and we are playing it by ear.

All in, the past picks, including the cash holdings,  might offer a fair representation of our market views over the past 11 months. Perhaps they offer at least some insight as to our relative success on the markets this year, in light of the negative returns that the indices, and thus, most buy-and-hold managers experienced.


  • Dear Keith
    I watched a PBS Nova show on statistics.In this show they talked about the “Wisdom of the Crowd”,as a branch of statistics.
    You have probably heard about this,but it struck me that this is basically what technical analysis is based on.
    Your thoughts

    • Yes, technical analysis is a form of/ related to what is commonly called “behavioural finance”–basic principles of that concept is that investors are essentially “crowds” and exhibit crowd behaviour. As such,, they act, when viewing their investments: Emotionally (excited or depressed depending on market behavior), with loss aversion (wont take an intelligent loss and hang on too long), are myopic (project forward the current market conditions without regard to potential of change), confirmation biased (they look to verify why their investments are a good decision without objectively accepting contrasting evidence), and biased to what they are familiar (eg- you worked for , say BCE all your life, you just love that stock, because its what you know–without disattached analysis).

    • Still in that consolidation pattern. I still have my 12% cash–have been hesitant to commit it..but the pattern is constructive.

  • That’s I like to engage everyday folk as to what they’re investing in recently. Go opposite that and you’ll likely do well.

    • You and Fred make similar and correct comments!
      Entirely agree–one of my best calls was in early 2014 after I heard guys in a YMCA change room talking about high yield energy stocks like Crescent Point and how they were making a killing. Got out of the sector before it imploded that year (after looking at the overbought charts) –initially inspired by their enthusiastic buying to sell!

  • I watched a TED Talk some time ago that said that if you determine the consensus is one direction, take the other. Most often you will be right.


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