Late last December - when most of the world was still unprepared for the economic and social turmoil that was on the way - we launched the 2020 Stockopedia Stock Picking Challenge. After an upbeat year for shares, we laid down the gauntlet for stock pickers to come up with their five best ideas in a head-to-head challenge with a trip to New York City at stake.

By the end of Q1, Covid-19 was with us and things looked bleak. Governments around the world were taking drastic steps to tackle the disease, with mixed results. Economies were plunged into chaos and stock markets (certainly in the UK) tanked for a time.

But there were still winners. The stock market is a ruthless judge, and while some sectors were pummelled, others did better. Consumer staples, gold and a handful of small-cap healthcare stocks held up well and in some cases surged. By the end of March, the leading stock picker - Rich The Newbie - had set an impressive pace with a 161.8% gain. He was helped in large part by a holding in the pharma share, Synairgen.

Winners in a year of turmoil

Fast forward six months to the present and there are still many questions... the prospect of more Covid restrictions (and their unpredictable economic impact), a US Presidential election and, of course, uncertainties around a Brexit trade deal.

The FTSE All-Share is still around 20% off its pre-crisis highs in February. The more speculative AIM All Share, which is dominated by a relatively small number of very large companies, has recovered its lost ground and is pushing on. In parts of the market there are deep concerns, but in others there’s more than a hint of speculative enthusiasm.

As a reminder, there were 2,153 entrants to the challenge when we kicked off trading in 2020:

  • Given that entrants picked five stocks each, that’s 10,765 stock picks in total
  • Overall, 2,446 different stocks were picked...
  • 1,123 were UK shares
  • 1,323 were international shares
  • 62% of entrants were Stockopedia subscribers and 38% were non-subscribers

Unaware of the impact that Covid-19 would soon have, the weight of interest last December among subscribers was in the consumer cyclicals and industrials sectors. Non-subscribers preferred the stock-picking territory of energy and mining.

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But as we saw earlier in the year, it…

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