Investors looking for the best stocks are wise to try to follow the smart money. From that standpoint, the portfolios of fund managers with strong track records can be fertile ground for picking stocks.
After all, the best portfolio managers may have different strategies and different specialties. But those who can beat the market over time have proven that their respective approaches are based on sound logic and an understanding of what moves markets.
To be sure, even the best stock pickers don’t always get it right. But they do more often than not. These five stocks all have support from some of the market’s best minds and some of its smartest money. That alone suggests the rest of us should take a long look.
Warren Buffett has built a well-deserved reputation as the “Oracle of Omaha” as he’s built Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A, NYSE:BRK.B) into one of the world’s most valuable companies. And while the touch of Buffett and Charlie Munger might not be as deft as they once were and Todd Combs and Ted Weschler are handling some of the company’s investments, the market still wisely sees Berkshire as the smart money.
And Buffett and Berkshire continue to see U.S. bank stocks as undervalued. Berkshire added to its positions in both Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) and JPMorgan Chase(NYSE:JPM) in the fourth quarter. That’s in addition to large existing stakes in Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC).
With Goldman stock up big this year and Wells Fargo still scandal-ridden, the emphasis on adding JPM and BAC makes some sense. I personally have long argued that BAC and JPM are the two best stocks among U.S. big banks, and it’s good to know that Buffett and Berkshire agree.
Morningstar tracks a group of managers that have historically beat the market with its Ultimate Stock-Pickers Index. The No. 1 purchase by that group, as of November, was railroad operator Union Pacific (NYSE:UNP).
Those managers look awfully smart. UNP stock has skyrocketed to start 2019, with the appointment of a new COO kicking off the rally last month. The stock now has gained 27% in this year alone.
But the rally may not be over. Union Pacific stock is hardly expensive, trading at 17 times 2019 earnings-per-share estimates. A 2% dividend adds income as well.
Macro weakness is the big risk here — lower economic growth means fewer products to ship — but Union Pacific has managed through tough times before. Over the long-term, UNP has been a substantial outperformer and one of the best stocks in the market. The backing of smart money suggests that should continue, even with UNP near all-time highs.
The No. 2 stock on Morningstar’s list is Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). Indeed, Apple’s attractiveness to the smart money seemed to peak in October and November. Berkshire long has owned AAPL, but in November, hedge funds turned from net sellers to net buyers in Apple stock.
That pivot was a bit early. AAPL would plunge in early January after cutting fiscal Q1 guidance. But the stock has rallied since, and strong institutional ownership persists.
I personally remain skeptical; AAPL is cheap, yet worries about the iPhone can’t be ignored. But a number of successful investors see it differently.
The smart money likes a turnaround on the cheap, and Kraft Heinz (NASDAQ:KHC) certainly qualifies. In late December, KHC stock touched its lowest point since the 2015 merger. Not coincidentally, the stock was a hedge fund favorite in the fourth quarter.
There’s a case for KHC near its lows. Changing customer tastes and private-label competition have pressured results of late. And there’s quite a bit of debt on the balance sheet. Still, Kraft Heinz has dozens of hugely valuable brands, and remains a tough competitor worldwide.
Indeed, I called KHC a fallen angel stock to buy in January, and I still believe that’s the case. It may take some time for Kraft Heinz to turn around, and that process will require some patience from investors. Anyone buying KHC can at least know that more than a few professional stock-pickers will be waiting with them.
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