**Mark Hulbert has discontinued publishing the Hulbert Financial Digest as of February 2016** He continues to track the performance of some newsletters at Hulbert Ratings.

Positives:

  • Unbiased reporting, they aren’t paid to promote newsletters that they track.
  • Covered over 200 newsletters, many with long term track records.
  • Performance ratings are adjusted for risk.
  • Forces newsletter editors to tabulate their returns and be responsible for their performance.

Negatives

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

Hulbert Financial Digest Review

If you’d like help tracking how a stock picking or mutual fund newsletter performs, you can pay a fee to subscribe to the Hulbert Financial Digest; the Consumer Reports of stock market newsletters. Hulbert’s Financial Digest has been published the last 30 years by Mark Hulbert and carries an excellent reputation, which is well deserved.

Twice a year Mark Hulbert publishes the returns of over 200 investment newsletters on a risk-adjusted basis. In addition, his monthly reports include research articles, background and historical performance of various investment newsletters and financial market sentiment indicators.

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 rated as a hold. Why is that 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 ration. 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 newsletters 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? We would say no.
Hulbert’s Financial Digest carries one of our highest recommended buy ratings due to its unbiased reporting and insightful analysis.