Can a monkey throwing darts at a newspaper beat the top market analysts and tip sheet publishers?

Dirty secret of financial tip sheets: Even when they seem to work, they often don’t. Performance that is market-beating on paper turns to dust in the real world of placing trades and paying brokerage commissions.

Case in point: the popular “Investment Dartboard” column that appears monthly in the Wall Street Journal. The professional stock pickers featured there have chalked up an average six-month gain of 11.1% since 1990, says the Journal. That compares with only 4.5% for randomly selected portfolios and 7% for the Dow industrials.

You can’t take this outperformance to the bank, according to a recent study in the University of Chicago’s Journal of Business. Readers who buy into the pros’ picks after reading the column make an average of only 8.2% if they hold them for six months, says the author, assistant professor Bing Liang of Case Western Reserve University. (That’s before brokerage commissions.) But he notes that the picks tend to be high-risk stocks. Adjust for risk and the readers average a return of minus 3.8%, relative to the market, over six months, he says.

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“Murray Priestley has 25 years of commercial and asset management experience having served in board, CEO and senior executive positions with a number of global public and private companies.”