Date of Issue: 5th January 2012

Sabrient Systems to Unveil 'Baker's Dozen' of Expected Top Stocks in 2012

By Steven Russolillo

  • Sabrient Systems to release its "Baker's Dozen" list of stock picks for 2012
  • Firm aiming for its fourth straight year of outperforming S&P 500
  • With fund managers struggling to outperform, a winning strategy is worth a look

Classic Wall Street strategies like the "Dogs of the Dow" or "sell in May and go away" have been around for years and have produced mixed results. A relatively new approach with a strong track record is hoping to gain some traction.

Market research firm Sabrient Systems is prepared to unveil its "Baker's Dozen" list of top stock picks for 2012. The firm combines a fundamental and quantitative approach that combs through thousands of stocks before selecting what it believes will be 13 top picks of the year. The firm recommends investors buy, and hold, these stocks through the calendar year with the goal of outperforming the broad market.

Sabrient's selections run the gamut from small-cap to large-cap stocks, with no more than three stocks coming from any particular sector. Sabrient's lists over the last three years have yielded returns of 36%, 21% and 7.3%, according to the firm, which have outperformed the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index each time.

The secret sauce entails looking for "the most growth we can get at the lowest price," said David Brown, chief market strategist at Sabrient.

"We're not technicians looking at charts and we don't want momentum stocks that will run out of gas," Brown said. "We're looking for stocks that won't vary wildly after they report earnings and will generate steady returns for one year."

Among stocks on the list expected to be unveiled by Sabrient late Thursday is Seagate Technology PLC (STX), a disk-drive maker that late Wednesday boosted its revenue outlook for its fiscal second and third quarters. The company said the impact from the Thailand flooding wasn't as bad as expected on its operations, which should give it an advantage over rival Western Digital Corp. (WDC).
Other picks on the list aren't exactly household names. Selections include Western Refining Inc. (WNR), Ocwen Financial Corp. (OCN) and Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. (WPI).

One company not on the list is Apple Inc. (AAPL), which has been one of the biggest highflyers in recent years.

"We feel that Apple is at the high end of their price range," Brown said. "The risk is they may do fine and the stock could go nowhere."

To be sure, not all of the firm's picks have been winners over the years. LDK Solar Ltd. (LDK) was a dud in 2009, falling 47% that year. Aegean Marine Petroleum Network Inc. (ANW) slumped 62% in 2010 and G-III Apparel Group Ltd. ( GIII) dropped 29% last year. Each stock was part of Sabrient's "Baker's Dozen" during the respective years.
But the company has picked more winners than losers throughout the years. The top gainer in 2011 was HealthSpring Inc. (HS), which more than doubled over the year.

There's some solace in finding a strategy that has worked amid some of the recent volatility. Only 21% of large-cap fund managers outperformed the Russell 1000 in 2011, according to research released this week from Bank of America Merrill Lunch.

"Fund managers continued to be stymied by a failure of stocks to differentiate from one another," BofA Merrill said in a note.

In an age of sharp volatility and highly correlated stocks, any strategy that has yielded some success will turn some heads.

"We're not looking for the most exciting companies in the world," Brown said. "We just want companies that will keep grinding out better and better earnings, yet still are priced very modestly based on growth."