Last year, I looked at what some stock experts had predicted to be the year's profitable trends. It turned out that many of the popular "hot stocks" flamed out, while numerous no-names came through with above-average gains.
Many pundits are now reviewing their 2007 pick performance, as well as putting their necks on the line with stock predictions for 2008. While last year showed that the hot and chic are often overvalued thanks to speculation, a review of the hot stock lists for 2007 teaches a different lesson.
Safety in size
The theme for many of the hot stock lists in 2007 was largesse, with most media publications favoring large caps. Seeing economic clouds on the horizon, SmartMoney ruled out any stock below $10 billion from its 12 picks for 2007, figuring large caps would weather what it expected to be a choppy economy. This kept the magazine out of more risky small caps, and anchored its portfolio in giants like Hartford Financial
Kiplinger's Personal Finance editor Jeffrey Kosnett opted mostly for large-cap bellwethers such as 3M
So, just as Paris is eschewing models with little meat on their bones, big was back in fashion for stocks in 2007. The average market cap for the SmartMoney picks was a whopping $62 billion. The results show that the decision to go big was a good call, as the average pick on each list handily outpaced the S&P. Of course, not all the stocks were winners, though -- for instance, Kiplinger's pick American International Group
What was hot yesterday ...
So does that mean large caps are chic again -- that they're the sector of choice for 2008? Not exactly.
What stands out clearly from many of the 2007 stock pick lists is the absence of one area that was en fuego last year -- international stocks. While many lists contained large caps that had strong international presence, SmartMoney was one of the few that directly recommended international giants China Mobile and Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling
So while U.S.-based large caps had great performance, emerging markets companies generated even more growth. Consider that last year the PowerShares QQQ ETF, which benefited from a heavy position in Apple, returned 18.8%, while the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF almost lapped this performance, with a 32.2% return. The year 2007 was not a story of what was hot, but where was hot.
The Foolish bottom line
As many tend to chase the hot trends from last year, the 2008 hot stock lists show -- you guessed it -- a larger smattering of international stocks. But chasing yesterday's crown jewels can land you in the poorhouse. And some international stocks have soared beyond the level of attractive investments.
There are still plenty of untapped markets and undervalued international stocks, however. Just do a little extra legwork to find them and be extra cautious about valuations and country risks (politics, currency, etc.).
Our Motley Fool Global Gains service has been doing the heavy lifting by scouring the globe looking for great international stock opportunities. If you need a few ideas and want to see what companies got the team excited on a recent trip to South America, just click here to see our research and recommendations free for 30 days.
This article was first published Dec. 21, 2007. It has been updated.
Fool contributor Dave Mock frequently blasts to the past with his favorite '80s band, Neon Nation. He owns shares of 3M. 3M and Anheuser-Busch are Inside Value recommendations. Annaly Capital Management is an Income Investor recommendation. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy keeps its 1970s playlist first in the queue.