Hargreaves Lansdown is one of the UK’s biggest investment brokers - and like other platforms, one of its eye-catching pages is its "Top of the Stocks" feature. You may have perused lists like this for interest or even made investment decisions off the back of them. But have you ever considered what lists like these really tell you - and whether they’re a route to easy profits or painful losses?

Lists of the most viewed, most bought, and most sold stocks can instinctively feel like a useful guide to what’s hot in the market. But our research shows that far from being a useful short-cut, these lists are right to carry very serious wealth warnings…

Hargreaves’ homepage reveals the top 5 most viewed shares and just one click away you can find the top 10 most viewed shares. This may seem innocent enough, and perhaps even very useful. After all, given the concept of the wisdom of crowds, the top 10 most popular shares could easily feel like somewhere you should be focusing your attention.

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Well, that’s where you’d be wrong. Upon seeing this list, there are three actions you could realistically take.

1. You might trustingly decide to buy these stocks, rationalising that they should perform well as they might have strong momentum. You may reasonably think that you can even combat poorly performing stocks on the list on any one day by adjusting your portfolio quarterly or even weekly. Yet my research shows that even this will not be able to save you from poor portfolio performance.

Using the top 10 lists dating back six years, I have created a portfolio of these stocks and updated it quarterly (in January, April, July and October), graphing the performance in comparison to the FTSE All-Share Index. Both are given a base investment of £100,000 and rebalanced quarterly as and when there is new data on stocks. As demonstrated, such a portfolio would significantly underperform the FTSE All-Share Index.

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2. You might decide to do some research to determine whether or not the stocks are worth the hype. Perhaps you think there must be some reason for the popularity of these stocks and know to do your research before investing. Investors should, on the whole, be smart and rational. However, given the data I’ve collected…

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