Top Teaser Stocks of 2020

In a year like no other... who stood out from the pack?

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, December 23, 2020

Every year we call out a “turkey” stock teaser around Thanksgiving time and poke a bit of fun at some terrible investment ideas…

… so it seems only fair to highlight a few winners as well, and this week, when we’re getting ready to close down for the holiday, seems a good time to spread some cheer and celebrate some good stuff.

So what were the top teaser picks of 2020?  It’s been a doozy of a year, for sure, and there have been some true barn-burner teaser stock picks over the past twelve months… but the ones at the top of the list do still stand out.

You can always check out the (semi-updated) teaser tracking spreadsheets to see what’s going on lately, but as of yesterday these were the winners at the top (the date links to our original article):

Date Company Ticker Newsletter Editor Publisher Buy Price Current Price Percent Change Stock vs. S&P
6/22/2020 MindMed MMEDF Green Chip Stocks Jeff Siegel Angel Publishing $0.37 $2.88 685.91% 668.01%
3/18/2020 The Rubicon Project (now Magnite) MGNI Project 5X Chris Wood RiskHedge $5.01 $27.05 441.12% 388.15%
3/2/2020 Fastly FSLY Motley Fool IPO Trailblazers Tom Gardner Motley Fool $20.25 $106.25 423.65% 401.12%
9/29/2020 VSBLTY VSBGF Wealth Warrior, The Jason Simpkins Outsider Club / Angel Publishing $0.10 $0.50 380.77% 370.91%
3/27/2020 The Trade Desk TTD Motley Fool Stock Advisor Dave Gardner, Tom Gardner Motley Fool $197.51 $960.87 384.62% 344.01%
4/13/2020 Fastly FSLY Motley Fool Cloud Disruptors 2022 Motley Fool $22.11 $106.25 379.60% 349.96%
4/6/2020 Square SQ Palm Beach Letter Teeka Tiwari Common Sense Publishing $50.31 $239.84 376.55% 337.78%
3/19/2020 Trulieve TCNNF Cabot Marijuana Investor Timothy Lutts Cabot $6.55 $31.30 377.86% 317.06%
3/16/2020 Moderna MRNA Million Dollar Portfolio (Wyatt) Ian Wyatt Wyatt Investment Research $28.18 $127.49 351.99% 306.45%
2/24/2020 Denali Therapeutics DNLI Takeover Targets Dylan Jovine Behind the Markets $22.08 $92.09 317.21% 299.54%

And we need to acknowledge that this has been an extraordinary year.  I’ve been tracking these “can’t miss” teaser stocks since 2007, and this is the first year in my memory that a majority of the teased stocks beat the market.  Usually it’s not even close, in a typical year at least 60-70% of the stocks will trail the market, two or three will come close to doubling, and a handful will lose more than 90% of their value.

This year, if you recall, it was a little difficult to choose our Turkey of the Year, because there weren’t that many really terrible stock picks.  Two thirds of the stocks that graced our pages after being teased by newsletters beat the S&P 500, and as of yesterday FIFTY of them had posted a gain of at least 100% since being teased.  That is truly extraordinary — and they have not repealed the law of gravity, so we should not expect to ever see a year like this again, but let’s take just a moment to enjoy it before we start to predict doom for 2021, shall we?

What can we see that really worked about those top stocks?  As usual, there were a couple biotechs in the mix — though surprisingly enough, only one of the COVID/vaccine names made the top ten (Moderna).  And several that I was skeptical of at the time that I covered them.

And not surprisingly, there were a bunch of high-growth tech stocks that led the bunch, as befits a year when technology growth stocks met their perfect market — we’ve never depended more on technology for work or entertainment than we did in 2020, and that shows in the successful stock picks.  The Motley Fool takes the lead in this bunch, thanks to the explosiveness of Fastly (FSLY) and to the fact that they’ve been teasing The Trade Desk (TTD) pretty much every month for three years now, but the two tiniest stocks in this bunch, by far, VSBLTY and MindMed, were teased by the Outsider Club/Angel Publishing folks.   And as befits a year that saw the world in an altered state, I guess it’s particularly appropriate that we had leading stocks who are selling, or trying to sell, both marijuana (Trulieve) and LSD (MindMed).

And as with last year, there were no repeats — last year’s top teaser list was dominated by technology hardware, with NVIDIA, Inseego, Taiwan Semiconductor and Skyworks Solutions leading the pack — but the top teaser picks of last year did continue to outperform this year, ALL of them beat the performance of the S&P 500 over the past 12 months.  Will that happen again this time around?  I’m a little skeptical, given the wild outperformance of the stocks that top the list this year, but you never know (the best teaser pick in 2019 beat the S&P 500 by about 60 percentage points… those top ten above all beat the market by close to 300 percentage points).

But what stands out most of all?  Timing matters, and therefore luck matters.  Most of those picks were teased in March and April, just as the market was bottoming out.  Performance is still relative, and they did perform extraordinarily well even compared to the broader markets, which also bottomed out around those times… but newsletters typically pick hot stories, which are always more volatile stocks, with a high beta, and that means that they were down more than the market when everything crashed… and the bounced back more than the market when everything recovered.

And let’s celebrate the biggest victories we’ve all seen this year in our own portfolios, shall we?  I’ll go first.

The biggest gains I’ve posted, by far, have been warrant and option speculations on growth stocks this year… but there’s a lot of luck involved there.  I saw potential in those bets, of course, but did not foresee those 1,000%+ gains in any way, and they were risky bets so I kept them small.   The new regular positions that I’ve added this year to the Real Money Portfolio that have been most successful also came early in the year — with Fastly (FSLY), Roku (ROKU) and Par Technology (PAR), all of which I started buying before the pandemic set in, jumping out as the biggest gainers (in that order), followed by smaller and somewhat newer positions in Sea Ltd (SE), Stitch Fix (SFIX), Cloudflare (NET) and Unity Software (U)… and among stocks I’ve owned for years, Shopify (SHOP), The Trade Desk (TTD), Okta (OKTA), DocuSign (DOCU) or Innovative Industrial Properties (IIPR) would have a claim on maybe making my top ten for 2020 (OK, I admit, I mostly slipped IIPR in there because I wanted to mention at least one stock that pays a dividend — IIPR did well in 2020, but not as well as those technology barn-burners… this was a year when nobody really cared about dividends… maybe that will change in 2021?)

Your turn!  What have been your best investments in this wild year?  

I know many of you have ridden the speculative wave in these and other stocks, probably including Tesla (TSLA), Zoom Video (ZM), a bunch of COVID names or the new wave of SPAC speculations… now’s your chance to take a victory lap, what are your biggest winners?  Let us know with a comment below.

And since it’s always interesting to see how “best” matches up (or fails to match up) with “most popular,” here are the articles that were most read at Stock Gumshoe this year, and the stocks that those articles pitched:

Whitney Tilson’s “TaaS” pitch (Alphabet (GOOG), Aptiv (APTV) and Nvidia (NVDA), 4/16/2020)
Teeka Tiwaris’ “Genesis” Blockchain stocks (Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), Square (SQ), NVIDIA (NVDA) — 4/6/2020)
Matt McCall’s Quantum Battery — (Ilika and others, 1/17/2019, still heavily pushed two years later)
Jimmy Mengel’s “Blue Gas Tesla Killer” (Ballard Power (BLDP) — 1/29/2020)
Paul Mampilly’s “America 2.0” pitch about a “South Carolina Disruptor” (3D Systems (DDD) — 1/13/2020)
Alex Koyfman’s “$6 Semiconductor to turn $1,000 into $313,000 before the year ends” (Everspin Technologies (MRAM) — 8/18/2020)
E.B. Tucker’s $10 “5G Master Key” (Gilat Satellite Networks (GILT) — 2/7/20)
Ray Blanco’s “Apple-Fi” Pitch (Aerojet Rocketdyne (AJRD), Loral Space (LORL), Echostar (SATS), Virgin Galactic (SPCE), Maxar (MAXR) — 6/1/2020)
Paul Mampilly’s “Battery Breakthrough fo the 21st Century” (Maybe Eaton (ETN), perhaps also secondary investments in private Sila Nanotechnologies — 4/23/2020)
Motley Fool’s “Netflix Killer” (The Trade Desk (TTD) — 3/27/20)

Those most-popular pitches did quite well in a few cases, too, though there were clearly a few stinkers.  Teeka’s pitch of Square and the Fool’s oft-repeated pitch of The Trade Desk did make the cut for that top ten above, and certainly NVIDIA did well this year even if it none of the NVDA teases were timed quite perfectly enough to crack that 300%+ gain to make the top of the list.  None of the stocks covered in those most popular articles did disastrously, as really almost no stock was a true disaster this year, but a few were relative disappointments, and mediocre at best — Everspin Technologies was a late-year disappointment as the CEO departed a couple weeks ago, Gilat was my personal “Turkey of the Year” as their merger failed, and 3D systems is just getting back to even thanks to a recent recovery.

So again, in a year of story stocks there were still a few stories that failed… but there weren’t any super-embarrassing stories among the “most popular” pitches at Stock Gumshoe.  If you had invested equal amounts based on all of those stories, you would have beaten the market.

And again, I’d be surprised if we’ll be able to say the same thing about the most popular teaser stocks of 2021 when we take a look a year from now… but you never know.

Stock Gumshoe will be largely closed down between Christmas and New Year’s Day so we can relax with our families… unless, of course, the latest wave of year-end teasers spurs me into action on vacation and fires me up to send you a quick note.  So let me take a moment now to wish you a happy respite from my blatheration, a merry Christmas if you celebrate that holiday, and a very happy new year… here’s hoping that 2021 is far better for the world than 2020 was… and that it will be half as good for investors as 2020 has been.

Disclosure: Of the companies mentioned above, I own shares of and/or options on Fastly, Roku, Par Technology, Sea Ltd, Stitch Fix, Cloudflare, Unity Software, Shopify, Alphabet, The Trade Desk, Okta, DocuSign, NVIDIA and Innovative Industrial Properties.  I will not submit trades in any covered stocks for at least three days, per Stock Gumshoe’s trading rules, though I do have stop loss orders in for portion of my positions in Fastly, Roku and Par Technologies which might be triggered during that trading embargo.