Apple analysts whiff on iPhone estimates (…again)

January 27, 2014  |  Finance

The headlines for Apple’s earnings are focusing on the 51 million iPhones shipped, which fell shy of Wall Street’s consensus estimate of 55 million. For us at PunditTracker, the more interesting question is why — yet again — were the analyst’s estimates were so tightly clustered? As Fortune’s terrific spreadsheet shows, 19 of the 30 analysts predicted between 54 and 56 million iPhones. This range seems shockingly narrow for a consumer technology product, particularly given all the ‘proprietary channel checks’ being done. 29 of the 30 pundits were in a range between 52.0 and 58.5 million, which of course failed to capture the actual result. Only Andy Hargreaves of Pacific Crest came in below 52 million (his prediction was 50.93).

We discussed potential reasons for this errant clustering in a post last year.


Barron’s Roundtable: 2013 Performance & Updated 2002-13 Rankings

January 8, 2014  |  Finance

We have been tracking the annual investment picks of the Barron’s Roundtable since 2002. After a remarkable run from 2002-10, during which the Roundtable trounced the S&P 500 for nine consecutive years, the last two years have been marked by underperformance:

Roundtable Avg-5.7%45.7%20.9%9.1%22.2%15.7%-21.4%31.4%17.8%
S&P 500-24.5%19.7%8.0%5.2%10.3%4.2%-36.0%19.7%9.8%

201120122002-12 CAGR
Roundtable Avg-4.9%10.5%11.4%
S&P 500-1.1%11.6%0.8%


So would 2013 mark a reversion to the ‘good old days’ or would the stock-pickers struggle again? Let’s take a look at how their picks fared this past year:

Roundtable Member2013 Return
Average Roundtable21.2%
Meryl Witmer60.9%
Oscar Schafer37.7%
Mario Gabelli34.7%
Brian Rogers32.6%
S&P 50028.2%
Abby Joseph Cohen18.7%
Scott Black10.8%
Felix Zulauf0.0%
Fred Hickey-26.1%

The Roundtable underperformed again in 2013, posting a 21.2% return on average versus the 28.2% of the S&P.  The group’s performance was dragged down by a few members, in particular Fred Hickey. Due largely to his big bet on gold, Hickey’s picks returned -26.1% on average. Felix Zulauf, the second best roundtable performer since 2002 (behind Marc Faber, who did not make picks this year), also had a tough year given his bet on emerging markets. Scott Black and Abby Joseph Cohen underperformed as well.

On a positive note, several members posted stellar years, notably Meryl Witmer who made three picks, all of which posted 49%+ returns. Oscar Schafer, Mario Gabelli, and Brian Rogers also outperformed the index.

For a full breakdown of all the pundit’s individual picks in 2013, click here.

Despite the sluggish performance in recent years, the group’s long-term record remains admirable. The Roundtable members have posted a 13.3% average CAGR since 2002 versus 1.5% for the S&P.

Here is how they have fared on an individual basis, relative to the corresponding S&P performance for the years in which they made picks:

Total (2002-13, 12 years)13.3%1.5%11.8%
Marc Faber (2002-12, 11 years)22.8%3.1%19.7%
Felix Zulauf (2002-13, 12 years)20.2%1.5%18.7%
Oscar Schafer (2002-13, 12 years)16.0%1.5%14.5%
Meryl Witmer (2002-13, 12 years)14.7%1.5%13.2%
Barton Biggs (2002-03, 2 years)3.4%-4.9%8.3%
Art Samberg (2002-08, 7 years)4.2%-3.9%8.1%
John Neff (2002-07, 6 years)9.8%2.8%7.0%
Mario Gabelli (2002-13, 12 years)8.2%1.5%6.7%
Scott Black (2002-13, 12 years)5.4%1.5%3.9%
Brian Rogers (2012-13, 2 years)22.9%19.6%3.3%
Abby Joseph Cohen (2002-03, 2005-13, 11 years)4.2%2.4%1.8%
Fred Hickey (2005-13, 9 years)4.0%4.1%-0.1%
Archie MacAllaster (2002-11, 10 years)-1.9%-0.2%-1.7%

For a full breakdown of the Roundtable performance from 2012-13, click here.


For those new to our site, PunditTracker levels the playing field by allowing users to compete with the ‘experts’. If you’d like to make your own picks on year-end targets for the S&P, Gold, Bitcoin, Oil, Twitter, and more, head over to our Finance section and use the ‘Vote Now’ button to make your picks. As with the Roundtable pundits, we will hold you accountable at year end!


Vote: Worst Financial Prediction of 2013

December 22, 2013  |  Finance

We have been recapping 2013 financial predictions over the past few weeks, and the message is clear: the finance pundits had a tough go of it this year. The prevailing sentiment heading into 2013 was caution, if not outright pessimism, which of course has not played out in the equity markets.

It wasn’t easy, but after sifting through all the prognostications, we have come up with four candidates for the Worst Financial Prediction of 2013. We’ll let you make the call on which is the worst through our voting widget below.


(1) Byron Wien: Gold will reach $1900/oz and S&P 500 will fall below 1300

As we discussed in a blog post earlier this month, Byron Wien of Blackstone had another woeful performance with his surprise predictions this year, going 1-for-10, bringing his total to 8-for-35 since we started tracking him in 2010.

Wien’s long gold/short S&P call could hardly have been more wrong, as the S&P is now trading above 1800 (up ~30%) while gold is hovering around $1200 (down ~30%).


(2) Gene Munster: Apple will release a television

Taken in isolation, this prediction from Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster was a perfectly reasonable one. Several other pundits we tracked predicted the same, and 48% of our users agreed that an Apple television was in the cards this year.

The reason that Munster’s prediction makes our Worst list is because he has made this prediction before…. again and again. In fact, starting in mid-2009 Munster has predicted an Apple television every six months or so and of course has been wrong each time. Lest you think we are exaggerating, here are the links to prove it: August 2009, March 2010, September 2010, June 2011, December 2011, May 2012, November 2012, March 2013, November 2013.

If Munster doesn’t win worst prediction this year, he may well be a candidate again next year as he has now pushed back his Apple television timeline to the first half of 2014. Regardless, he wins our first entry into the Broken Clock Hall of Fame.


(3) Harry Dent: Dow Jones Index will fall below 5000

Ever since his book The Great Crash Ahead was published in 2011, financial newsletter writer Harry Dent has been hitting the television circuits to sell his message of doom & gloom. His prediction that the S&P 500 would fall 30-50% in 2012 proved wildly wrong.

His prediction for 2013, that the Dow Jones would tumble below 5000, was equally bold and equally wrong. The Dow is at 16000 today. Could Dent simply be early? If so, we will be there to give him credit – we are still tracking his “Dow falls to 3000 by 2022” prediction on our site.


(4) Wall Street Analysts: S&P Price Targets

Here were the S&P forecasts of six bulge bracket firms at the start of each of the past three years.

Average (Banks)137813381543
Credit Suisse125013401550
Goldman Sachs145012501575
JP Morgan140014301580
Bank of America Merrill Lynch140013501600

Average Projected Rise9.9%6.4%8.2%
Actual Rise0.3%13.4%27.5%

The mean S&P estimate has been considerably off-target each year: by +960 basis points in 2011, -700 basis points in 2012, and a whopping -1930 basis points so far this year. Moreover, the clustering effect has been very pronounced, with five of the six analyst predictions each year falling within a 100 point range (1350-1450 in 2011, 1250-1350 in 2012, and 1500-1600 in 2013) – ranges which failed to capture the actual result in every instanceWe discussed potential reasons for the errant clustering in a previous post. Regardless, given this performance, should we pay any attention to all the 2014 targets that are coming out lately?


Okay, those are the candidates – now it’s your turn to vote! We will reveal the “winner” on January 9.


Head over to our Finance section to make your own predictions for 2014 and see if you can crack our User Leaderboard. PunditTracker’s user voting platform aims to surface more “Nate Silvers” by allowing people like yourself to build your own public prediction track record. After all, with the financial ‘experts’ falling flat on their faces in 2013, shouldn’t they be replaced?

We will be adding plenty of new predictions as they come in over the next few weeks, so make sure to check back frequently. You can also see the profile pages for all the pundits discussed above, including a full breakdown of their predictions since we started tracking them.


Bob Doll’s Grade in 2013

December 16, 2013  |  Finance

We have been tracking the annual predictions of Bob Doll (formerly of Blackrock, now at Nuveen) since 2010. Heading into this year, he was 12-for-25 (48% hit rate) for the predictions we tracked, equating to a $0.82 Yield and F grade. Recall that Yield is the ROI had you bet $1 on the prediction based on those consensus odds; this is our core scoring metric and is used to arrive at our letter grade.

Hit Rate5/9 (56%)4/8 (50%)3/8 (38%)12/25 (48%)

As we await Bob Doll’s outlook for 2014, let’s recap how his predictions for 2013 are turning out.

Total3/7, 2 TBD$0.80
Europe exits recession by the end of 2013TRUE42%$2.38
US yield curve steepens in 2013TRUE62%$1.61
US stocks see an all-time high during 2013 (S&P 500 above 1565)TRUE61%$1.64
Emerging market equities outperform developed market equitiesFALSE62%$0.00
US multinationals outperform domestically focused companiesFALSE75%$0.00
US passes $2-3 trillion ten-year budget dealFALSE33%$0.00
Large-caps stocks outperform small-caps AND cyclical companies outperform defensive companiesFALSE52%$0.00
Dividends increase at a double-digit rate as pay-out ratios riseTBD
US nominal GDP growth will be less than 5% in 2013TBD

Consensus refers to how likely PunditTracker’s user base deemed the prediction to occur at the time it was made.

Final Tally

2013 Results: 3/7 (43% Hit Rate), 2 TBD, $0.80 Yield, F Grade

Cumulative Results: 15/32 (47% Hit Rate), $0.82 Yield, F Grade


Chris Ciaccia’s 2013 Grade & New Tech Predictions for 2014

December 16, 2013  |  Finance

We tracked seven of Chris Ciaccia’s ( technology predictions in 2013. Here is how he fared.

Intel will become a major foundry in 2013FALSE
Twitter will file to go public in 2013TRUE
Zynga will get acquired in 2013FALSE
Apple will release a television set in 2013FALSE
Microsoft will release a next-gen Xbox console in 2013TRUE
Nokia will lose market share in 2013TRUE
Steve Ballmer will leave Microsoft in 2013TRUE

Ciaccia’s best prediction was Steve Ballmer’s Microsoft exit. His Twitter IPO prediction (51% consensus, based on our user votes) was another standout. Ciaccia whiffed on the Zynga acquisition and Apple TV set; while Intel tiptoed into the foundry market, we graded his prediction (“major foundry”) as incorrect.

Final Tally: 4 Correct, 3 Incorrect (57% Hit Rate), $1.07 Yield, B+ Grade

Recall that Yield is our core scoring metric and calibrates predictions for how bold they are, giving pundits more credit for out-of-consensus predictions. It measures the average ROI had bet $1 on each of his predictions, based on consensus odds at the time.

Now here are Ciaccia’s predictions for 2014.

Apple will launch a watch in 214
Jawbone or Fitbit get acquired in 214
Snapchat valuation bubble will burst in 214
Square will go public in 214
Dropbox IPO will flop
Box IPO will flop
HP will enter the 3D printing market in 214
Apple will increase its share repurchase program in 214
John Chambers will step down as Cisco's CEO in 214
Intel will become more relevant in mobile in 214
Yahoo will acquired Business Insider in 214

For a limited time, you can make your own predictions on many of these. Head over to Chris Ciaccia’s PunditTracker profile page to do so.

Should we pay any attention to the 2014 S&P 500 forecasts?

December 15, 2013  |  Finance

As the Wall Street analysts steadily chime in with their 2014 S&P 500 predictions, let’s revisit how they did with their prognostications over the past three years.

Annual S&P 500 Forecasts

Average (Banks)137813381543
Credit Suisse125013401550
Goldman Sachs145012501575
JP Morgan140014301580
Bank of America Merrill Lynch140013501600

Average Projected Rise9.9%6.4%8.2%
Actual Rise0.3%13.4%27.5%

The mean S&P estimate has been considerably off-target each year: by +960 basis points in 2011, -700 basis points in 2012, and a whopping -1630 basis points so far this year. Moreover, the clustering effect has been very pronounced, with five of the six analyst predictions each year falling within a 100 point range (1350-1450 in 2011, 1250-1350 in 2012, and 1500-1600 in 2013) – ranges which failed to capture the actual result in every instance.

So what is behind the errant clustering? The biases of anchoring and recency are likely culprits, with analysts anchoring to a baseline and extrapolating from recent trends. We believe career risk is also at play: as investor Joel Greenblatt put it, “It’s much safer to be wrong in a crowd than to risk being the only one to misread a situation that everyone else had pegged correctly.”

But how do we reconcile the incentive for pundits to not stray from the consensus – and thus minimize career risk – with the bombastic pundits that we all love to rail on? Why aren’t they concerned about career risk? Well, here’s the catch:

In punditry, if you are going to be wrong, it pays to be spectacularly wrong.

We explain using the following matrix:

Reaction to outcomes by prediction type

Prediction TypeOutcome: CorrectOutcome: Incorrect
ContrarianSubdued PraisePink Slip
Wildly ContrarianHeroCelebrity

The first prediction type (“Consensus”) is greeted with minimal credit when correct and minimal blame when incorrect. As we discussed with the S&P 500 forecasters, pundits focused on career preservation adhere to this ‘safety in numbers’ approach. The last prediction type (“Wildly Contrarian”) is typically made by pundits who crave media attention. Regardless of outcome, they are able to parlay their provocative predictions and media prowess into cash by writing books, hitting the speaking circuit, and developing a cult-like following. This is how One-Hit Wonders and Broken Clocks are born.

That leaves the middle prediction type, which we refer to as the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ of punditry. These pundits are contrarian enough to create career risk for themselves but not contrarian enough to garner mainstream attention. Correct predictions are greeted with modest praise — say, a pat on the back from a few colleagues — while incorrect predictions draw intense scrutiny. Low reward, high risk.

Our hunch is that the best pundits are stuck in this Bermuda Triangle, quietly amassing first-rate track records but lacking a platform to reach a wider audience. Instead, our professional ranks and airwaves are cluttered with pundits who make Consensus and Wildly Contrarian predictions. Nate Silver is a rare exception, having made the leap from quant to superstar. We would argue that Silver was aided by the criticism leveled at him by conservatives, which created a false perception that his election predictions were wildly contrarian when they were in fact only moderately so.

PunditTracker aims to disrupt the prediction industry by offering a common platform for everyone – including yourself  — to make predictions. By leveling the playing field and holding everyone equally accountable, we strive to introduce a much-needed dose of meritocracy into the system.


Reviewing Doug Kass’s Surprises for 2013

December 11, 2013  |  Finance

We started tracking Doug Kass’s annual surprises in 2012, a year in which he went 6-for-15 with a Yield of $0.80.  Since Kass tends to make bold, out-of-consensus predictions, we believe PunditTracker’s scoring system is ideal for grading him. Our “Yield” metric explicitly incorporates the boldness of predictions by measuring the average payout had you bet $1 on each of them, based on consensus odds at the time. We fully expect Kass to have a low hit rate/batting average, but if he gets even a few predictions right, his Yield could be well over $1.00, earning him a good grade.

While there are still several weeks to go in the year, we figured it was an appropriate time to quickly review how Kass’s 2013 surprises are shaping up:

U.S. real GDP growth expands by 1.5% or less in 2013FALSE
Michael Bloomberg becomes the leader of a new third party in 2013FALSE
The yield on the 10-year U.S. note stays between 1.5% and 2.0% in 2013FALSE
Merger activity declines in 2013TBD
Outflows from domestic equity funds and inflows into bond funds continue in 2013FALSE
Procter & Gamble splits into three separate companies in 2013FALSE
S&P 500 puts in its yearly high in the first two weeks of JanuaryFALSE
A tax on securities transactions is instituted in exchange for an increase in Medicare eligibility in 2013FALSE
Obama greenlights the Keystone Pipeline project in 2013FALSE
There will be a drought, a flash crash, a coronal mass ejection, and a cyber attack in 2013FALSE
Apple's stock price drops below $500 in 1Q13 but rises to over $600 by year-endTBD
Portfolio: Long Altisource Asset Management and Ford in 2013TRUE
A comprehensive New York Times expose reveals that all Chinese economic data has been fabricatedFALSE
Signs of life are found on Mars in 2013FALSE

Kass’ general theme was a downbeat take relative to consensus expectations, which at least as far as the stock markets have been concerned, ended up burning him in 2013. While stock picks such as Altisource worked out, most of his predictions are shaping up to be incorrect.

Final Tally

2013 results: 1 Right, 11 Wrong (8% Hit Rate), 2 TBD, $0.17 Yield, F Grade

Cumulative Results: 6 Right, 21 Wrong (22% Hit Rate), $0.44 Yield, F Grade

To see all of Kass’s predictions or to make your own predictions on various financial topics — including 2014 year-end prices for Gold and the S&P 500 — visit our Finance master page.



Did Byron (Wien) do Better in 2013?

December 9, 2013  |  Finance

UPDATES:  Wien’s 2014 predictions are now live on the site — head over to our Finance section to see them and to make your own predictions for 2014. Also, Wien’s ‘long S&P/short gold’ prediction is up for “Worst Financial Prediction of 2013″ — click here to cast your vote.


We started tracking Byron Wien’s annual predictions in 2010, grading those that meet our threshold for concreteness (not vague and/or subjective). His results have been woeful: Wien was 7-for-25 with his predictions over the past three years, resulting in a $0.73 Yield and an F grade.

Hit Rate0/9 (0%)4/8 (50%)3/8 (38%)7/25 (28%)

Recall that Yield is our way of calibrating predictions for ‘boldness’ — after all, predicting each day that the sun will rise tomorrow would result in a 100% hit rate but say little about a pundit’s ability. The Yield measures the average return on investment had you bet $1 of each of the pundit’s predictions, based on consensus odds at the time.

So did Byron revert to the mean with a strong performance in 2013? We have been tracking ten of his predictions this year — here are the results as we stand today:

Iran announces it has enough enriched uranium to produce a nuclear missile in 2013FALSE
Financial stocks post negative return in 2013FALSEXLF up 30%+
West Texas Intermediate falls to $70/Barrel during 2013FALSE$94, bottom was ~$86
Japanese Yen declines to 100 per USD, Nikkei 225 trades above 12KTRUE
European equities decline 10% in 2013FALSEStoxx Europe 600 up 11%+
Corn rises to $8.00/bushel, wheat to $9.00/bushel, AND cattle to $1.50/pound during 2013FALSECorn down to ~$4, wheat $7
Gold reaches $1900/ounce during 2013FALSEGold hovering around $1200
2013 earnings for the S&P 500 below $100FALSEConsensus est $109-110
Shanghai Composite "A" shares rise more than 20% in 2013FALSENegative return curently
S&P 500 trades below $1300 during 2013FALSENow $1800

Yikes! Wien nailed his Japan call but whiffed badly on the rest, going 1-for-10 with a ghastly $0.15 Yield. Is his newly bullish take on the market a contrarian sign? We look forward to grading his 2014 predictions.

Final Tally

2013 Results: 1 Right, 9 Wrong (10% Hit Rate), $0.15 Yield, F Grade

Cumulative Results: 8 Right, 27 Wrong (23% Hit Rate), $0.56 Yield, F Grade

To see all of Wien’s predictions or to make your own predictions on various financial topics — including 2014 year-end prices for Gold and the S&P 500 — visit our Finance master page.


Jim Cramer’s Biotech Picks Drive Strong Q2

October 7, 2013  |  Finance

As we referenced in our 2011 & 2012 recap of Cramer’s Mad Money picks, we will be updating Cramer’s performance each quarter. For our full scoring methodology, please see our previous post.

After a string of tough quarters, Jim Cramer bounced back with a stellar quarter of picks in the second quarter. He made 62 Featured Buy & Sell picks from April 1 – June 30, with 33 of them outperforming the S&P 500 (53% hit rate) based on a three-month holding period. The picks returned 8.8% versus 2.3% for the S&P over the corresponding period. That amounts to 649 basis points of quarterly outperformance, or 2596 basis points on an annualized basis, which equates to an A+ grade in our grading system. (We award an A for 500+ basis points of annual equity outperformance and an F for 500+ basis points of underperformance.)

After this excellent quarter, Cramer’s overall grade rises from an F to a D. Since we started tracking him in 2011, his 678 Featured picks have returned 0.9% on average versus 1.6% for the S&P 500 (78 basis points of underperformance, or 312 on an annualized basis).

S&P 5001.2%-4.8%0.0%4.7%1.6%2.8%0.1%3.1%
# picks5963487786816177
Hit Rate39%46%46%58%45%43%36%51%

S&P 5003.4%2.3%
# picks6462
Hit Rate48%53%
PT GradeFA+

During the second quarter, Cramer made 16 picks that outperformed the S&P by at least 10 percentage points and only 4 picks that underperformed the S&P by at least 10 percentage points. The biggest driver, by far, was his heavy dose of picks in the biotech sector, many of which rose more than 50% over the subsequent three months. In fact, Cramer’s three best-performing picks (and six of his top seven) since we started tracking him were made during this quarter, thanks to general strength in the biotech sector combined with either favorable trial data or an acquisition offer. His May 3 recommendation of Facebook (FB) at about $28 a share also turned out to be a big winner.

Here were his Best and Worst picks:

Best Picks (Q2 2013)

Buy ISIS Pharmaceuticals (ISIS)4/3/1380.9%4.6%
Buy Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (ALNY)4/3/1368.8%4.6%
Sell Celldex Therapeutics (CLDX)5/31/1361.5%-0.5%
Buy Onyx Pharmaceuticals (ONXX)4/2/1352.1%5.1%
Buy Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX)4/2/1350.5%4.0%

Worst Picks (Q2 2013)

Sell Rackspace (RAX)6/13/13-48.3%-3.5%
Buy Pfizer (PFE)1/14/13-5.7%8.4%
Buy Sangamo Biosciences (SGMO)1/10/13-6.5%4.6%
Buy Valero Energy (VLO)2/19/13-7.3%3.3%
Buy Plains All American (PAA)3/05/13-10.0%-0.6%


If you’d like to start building your own prediction track record for everyone to see  – including stock picks (e.g. TSLA, NFLX, AAPL) and outcomes such as the debt ceiling and the next Fed Chair  — visit the PunditTracker Finance section (link here). Just use the ‘Vote Now’ button to make your picks.

To see all the details of Jim Cramer’s picks, visit his PunditTracker Profile page (link here).


Amazon and Facebook: Then and Now

September 26, 2013  |  Finance

With the stock prices of Amazon and Facebook eclipsing new highs each day, it’s easy to forget that many pundits out there deemed founder CEOs Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg unfit to run these two companies, respectively. Consider these two articles:

Time for Bezos to step aside? (2001)

<< Earlier this month, MSN MoneyCentral columnist Jim Jubak branded Bezos one of the three CEOs who most deserve to be axed. >>

Amazon revenue (2000): $2.8 billion

Amazon revenue (2012): $61.1 billion

Facebook needs a new CEO (2012)

<< Zuckerberg is at least partly responsible for the pipe dream that Facebook was worth $100 billion when it went public. >>

Facebook market capitalization (July 2012): $65 billion

Facebook market capitalization (today): $123 billion


The individual members of the media are easy to pick on, but it’s really the incentives that are to blame. As CEO Jack Byrne once said, “You shoot ducks not when the gun is loaded but when the ducks are flying.” The problem with the media is that they are required to write articles each day, even when there is no real news to report. As such, they understandably succumb to the behavioral pitfalls of narrative fallacy. In other words, they adhere to the following playbook: take a recent extreme news outcome (e.g. a plummeting stock price), spin a story around why it happened, and write an article about it. And, of course, periods of extreme performance tend to be followed by reversion to the mean, making for a perfectly contrarian news story. We strongly recommend Phil Rosenzweig’s The Halo Effect for a deeper look at this idea.

What are some of your favorite contrarian news stories?


  1. Have a pundit you would like us to track? Or some general feedback on the site? Let us know!