Mark Hulbert and his team track the performance of select stock newsletters at Hulbert Ratings. We highly recommend this website as the newsletters pay a fee to Mark Hulbert to independently audit and track their returns.  No deception, no false claims,  only verifiable results.

Most newsletters avoid paying the small service fee to have their results independently audited as it will expose their actual returns.  Instead, they rely on affiliate websites that pose as newsletter review websites and hyped-up advertising to attract new subscribers.

Hulbert Ratings

If you’d like help tracking how a stock market newsletter performs, Hulbert Ratings; a Consumer Reports for stock market newsletters is one of your best sources to follow. Hulbert’s Financial Digest has been around for the last 30 plus years and carries an excellent reputation, which is well deserved.

Due to legal reasons (lawyers from well-known newsletters didn’t want their results tracked and published on the legal argument that you can’t sell self-audited results to users on a subscription basis), the digest had to switch from a subscription service to a paid-for service.  That is, only newsletters that paid to have their results audited could have their results published.  It’s a shame because individual investors lost the ability to monitor most of the most popular newsletters on the market.  It was always interesting to see the difference between audited results and published results.

Up until 2016, Hulbert provided a subscription-based service called Hulbert’s Financial Digest that published audited returns for a few hundred investment newsletters that his organization subscribed to. His monthly reports included research articles, background information, risk factors and historical performance.

Since switching to a paid-for monitoring service, Hulbert Ratings is now down to less than 20 publications.  The number is growing. I hope to see that trend continue.

When looking at the tabulated results there’s one caveat to keep in mind though. Hulbert’s Financial Digest only tracks the results of stocks or investment vehicles recommended as a buy. They don’t include the performance results of stocks or investments not rated as a current buy for new subscribers. See their methodology for further details. Why could that be a problem?

Let’s say you think a stock has a fair value of $18 a share. At $10 a share, there’s low downside risk with great upside potential, it has a great risk/reward ratio. Therefore you recommend the stock as a buy at the price of $10 a share. Once the stock gets to $15 or $16 the risk/reward ratio has changed. It’s risky to initiate a new buy position at that price level but you’re not ready to sell it either because you still expect it to appreciate in price a bit. So you rate the stock as a hold for current owners as opposed to a buy for new investors.
Once a newsletter editor changes the stock’s rating to a hold Hulbert’s Financial Digest no longer includes those results in the final tally so you get an incomplete picture of the newsletter’s actual performance. That’s one reason why the results can be quite different from the published results reported by the newsletter itself.

That being said, there is still great value in their analysis and published returns. After all, if the stock market newsletters buy list can’t outperform the market, the stocks listed as hold are highly unlikely to make up the difference. And if the newsletter can’t beat its benchmark with its buy recommendations, is it really worth subscribing to?

Positives:

  • Unbiased reporting, they aren’t paid to promote newsletters that they track.
  • Performance ratings are adjusted for risk.
  • Forces newsletter editors to provide exact instructions to subscribers, tabulate their returns and be responsible for their published performance results.

Negatives

  • Only includes returns of investments labeled as a buy for new subscribers and not hold which can skew actual results.
  • Has to infer investment returns for newsletters that don’t provide specific buy/sell recommendations and investment portfolios.
  • Doesn’t cover many of the higher-priced trading publications.

Hulbert’s Financial Digest carries our highest recommendation due to its unbiased reporting and forcing newsletter editors to provided specific buy and sell recommendations.