Back in August of 2007, Barron's Bill Alpert slammed Jim Cramer's stock-picking abilities in a cover story (subscription required). At the time, Alpert reported that "Over the past two years, viewers holding Cramer's stocks would be up 12% while the Dow rose 22% and the S&P 500 16%, according to a record of 1,300 of the CNBC star's Buy recommendations compiled by YourMoneyWatch.com, a Website run by a retired stock analyst and loyal Cramer-watcher."
Now Alpert is back for more. In the latest issue of Barron's, he writes that "Cramer's recommendations underperform the market by most measures. From May to December of last year, for example, the market lost about 30%. Heeding Cramer's Buys and Sells would have added another five percentage points to that loss, according to our latest tally."
The article goes into fairly excruciating detail, looking at the data from a number of different perspective, all with the same result: Investors would do just as well throwing darts at the stock table. What gives? Part of the problem is that Cramer is simply giving way too many stock picks. Warren Buffett has has said that an investor can expect only a handful of good investment ideas in an entire lifetime: Cramer gives several every night. With all his media appearances, how could he possibly have time to learn enough about all these companies to have an edge over the market?
In the end, I think you'd have to be pretty dumb to buy or sell any stock based on what a television commentator says. But Cramer is one of the smartest minds in the financial markets, and his show is one of the only truly entertaining places to learn about Wall Street. If you don't his manic antics too seriously, there's a lot to be learned from the show.
Barron's slams Jim Cramer again