Seeking Alpha Quant Rating Review (Is it any good?)

Is the Quant Rating feature worth $19.99 per month?

Seeking Alpha has always been a fairly good resource for information on the market, as well as tracking down your next stock idea, but with the recent addition of a paywall on most of their articles, is a membership worth it? More importantly, is the “Quant Rating” feature that they seem to tout around their website an actually valuable tool?

Well, that’s what we will be reviewing today. I’ll preface this review by saying that I have only signed up to Seeking Alpha Premium yesterday, so I won’t be able to give you a straight answer today, but I will be updating this review over time.

I’m also going to mention that I will NOT have any affiliate links in this review, nor am I receiving any compensation from anyone for writing this review. The downside of this? I’m not going to make a dime from this piece of content, but the upside is that I can be brutally honest with you.

A typical Problem With Stock Picking Services

None of us are strangers to being advertised various stock pick memberships, whether it be Zacks, Motley Fools, or Seeking Alpha.

I’ve personally been a subscriber to Motley Fools for the past year, and while the service was interesting, there was a few major flaw to their whole system:

  • The focus on growth stocks

So here is the deal, all these online services want to select the next stock that will 10x, 20x, maybe even 100x. If that happens, they now have the perfect material to attract new customers. Potential customers don’t want to hear that you’ve returned 225% over the course of 10 years, they want to hear about those 10,000% returns.

Well, you can’t have that if you focus on solid companies, with actual earnings, and staying power. The only way to hunt down such stocks is by selecting any stock under the sun that is exhibiting an ounce of strong growth, and hope that down the line, that company becomes a behemoth in their industry.

  • Unrealistic backtesting results

You see this all the time, “had you invested with us, instead of the S&P 500, then you would have done 2-3x better!”….alright sure, but let’s take a closer look at that claim.

Typically, when they make such a claim, they take ALL of their recommendations, and run the simulation, completely ignoring the realistic expectation that an investor will only be able to follow each and every single recommendation. Motley Fools releases a new recommendation every two weeks, if you’re an average investor, how could you possibly buy into each of their recommendations? Well, what happens if you miss a bunch of them? Well, from the mouths of the Motley Fool founders, 4/10 recommendations end up being losers.

Think about that, if 40% of the picks are losers, then you run a real risk of underperforming the market by simply not being able to get into every stock. Obviously, Motley Fools is banking on the idea that the 6/10 recommendations will be multi-baggers and will make up for the losers and more – which sure, is OK. But if you yourself are selecting from that group of 10, and only have the money for 5 stocks, then what happens if you actually picked the 4 losers, and now you have a portfolio of 4 losers and 1 winner.

This also ties into the backtesting results that Seeking Alpha has posted about their Quant, so let’s go into that now.

Digesting The Backtest Results for Seeking Alpha’s Quant

Seeking Alpha Quant Rating Review (Is it any good?) 1

At first glance, that looks great, right? But what does it really take to replicate such results?

Seeking Alpha Quant Rating Review (Is it any good?) 2

  • You HAVE to buy EVERY “Very Bullish” recommendation
  • You HAVE to make sure each investment is equal weight.
  • You HAVE to make sure you rebalance EVERY single day.
  • You HAVE to use a brokerage that charges $0 fees for commission (easier in 2021…. than it was back in 2012)

Today, three of those four criteria are not feasible for the everyday investor.

To further drive the point how it’s also impossible to be invested in all the “Very Bullish” recommendations:

Seeking Alpha Quant Rating Review (Is it any good?) 3

Just for today, June 4, 2021, there were 376 stocks that fit the “Very Bullish” criteria. Are you really in a position to invest equally into those 376 stocks, and then rebalance all of them daily? Not to mention add in new stocks that receive the “Very Bullish” rating, or get rid of stocks that get downgraded from that rating?

I bet not.

But here is where things get a bit confusing. On this same page, that shows the results of their Quant system over the last 10 years, if you have the “Premium” plan, then you’ll see the following hyperlink on the page:

Seeking Alpha Quant Rating Review (Is it any good?) 4

When you click on that link, it leads to the following screener settings:

Seeking Alpha Quant Rating Review (Is it any good?) 5

So let’s recap what’s going on here. The backtest that we are shown is one that shows the “power” of the quant system, and that if you simply bought all the “Very Bullish” marked stocks over the last 10 years, and followed all the proper steps in terms of balancing, you would have been the market. But, Seeking Alpha doesn’t link you to the screener that strictly looks at the “Very Bullish” stocks. Instead, they link you to a screener that has the following parameters:

  • Quant Rating is Bullish or better
  • SA Author Rating is Bullish or better
  • Wall St Rating is Bullish or better

That’s cool, but that not what the backtest was based on, so if anything we don’t have any out-of-sample data for how this screener is going to perform.

The reason I am bringing this up is to show you why the vast majority of the time when a service is pitching the “backtest” results of their service, the graphic is usually not even worth the space that it’s taking up on their server.

The Good

Now that we’ve taken a few jabs at Seeking Alpha, let’s see if there is added value from their Quant system. To better showcase the tool, I will be transparent with the stocks. If someone from SA is reading this post and has an issue with that transparency, contact me, and I will blur out the stocks.

Let’s start by examining Apple:

Seeking Alpha Quant Rating Review (Is it any good?) 6
click to enlarge

So pay attention to the right sidebar. With Seeking Alpha Premium, you do receive these quick grades for stocks that do help you quickly gauge the “rating” for the stock. At the same time, for the “Quant” rating, in the second table, you can see how the grades are broken down. Right now, Apple is getting dinged the most for “Value”.

How does the Quant system determine “Value”, I actually have no clue because they decided not to share that information. All I could find from this page is that they do not look at PE multiples, nor do they use the discounted-cash flow model.

We can dig further by clicking on “Value” under the “Factor Grades” table:

Seeking Alpha Quant Rating Review (Is it any good?) 7
click to enlarge

In my opinion, based on how the data is being shown, the “Value” factor in the Quant system relies on comparing the fundamentals to other companies in their industry. At a quick glance, you can come to the conclusion that Apple does seem to be trading richer compared to its sector.

On the flip side, let’s look at the “Profitability” factor since that seems to be Apple’s strong suit with the Quant system.

Seeking Alpha Quant Rating Review (Is it any good?) 8
click to enlarge

Without question, Apple’s margins are a strong suit for the company, and it definitely helps in receiving a 4.83 rating from the Quant system.

Granted, from a fundamental point of view, the Quant system is trying to sell us right now that Apple is trading a little too rich, and that does seem to be the case whether we compare Apple to the sector median, or to Apple’s past 5-year average.

Let’s look at some other data points that you are privy to with the Seeking Alpha Premium subscription.

SA does give us a page where we can lineup sector competitors of Apple on one page and compare the stats:

Seeking Alpha Quant Rating Review (Is it any good?) 9
click to enlarge

We can actually pick up some interesting pieces of information here. Notice how HPQ actually receives an A+ for “Value”, but a D for “Growth”. Well, we can also see that the Quant system had given HPQ a “Neutral” rating, which is good to see, but it means that the Quant system isn’t entirely focused on the current fundamentals.

A big issue with many tools that try to find “undervalued” companies is that they give you companies that might be trading for a low PE, but they’re trading down there usually due to poor expected future growth. These sorts of stocks can be referred to as “Value Traps”.

Well, by seeing that the Quant system definitely loves the “Value” behind HPQ, as well as the “Profitability”, but understands that the future growth is lacking, it crunches the numbers enough to say that it might not be that great of a pick.

Seeking Alpha Quant Rating Review (Is it any good?) 10
click to enlarge

Definitely an ouch on the growth there for HPQ.

We can go back to Apple, and see what other information we have access to under the Premium plan.

Seeking Alpha Quant Rating Review (Is it any good?) 11
click to enlarge

I personally do enjoy this section, which does quickly show us what the authors of SA think of the stock, as well as what Wall St thinks of the stock. Personally, when it comes to stock picking, I do want to read as many opinions as possible, especially from the bears.

We can dive a little deeper by going to each of those ratings separately:

Seeking Alpha Quant Rating Review (Is it any good?) 12

As well as Wall St:

Seeking Alpha Quant Rating Review (Is it any good?) 13

Alright, we’re going to have to move forward from here since I can continue posting screenshots for hours. But obviously, if you want to see the company’s actual financial statements, those are available on SA, as well as earning reports, SEC filings, etc.

“Very Bullish” Screener by the Quant System

We’re now going to look at the stocks recommended by the Quant system. This screener is basically the one that is recommended to only subscribers to be used. I will be sharing the top 10 stocks that the Quant system recommends as of right now. For most readers, by the time you are reading this post, there is a good chance that the list has changed, and the same opportunity is no longer there.

Seeking Alpha Quant Rating Review (Is it any good?) 14
click to enlarge

There you have it. I didn’t any of the filters, I simply clicked on the “Top Rated Stock” screener that is provided and suggested by Seeking Alpha.

One thing that should stick out is how all of these stocks are very strong grades from the Quant system across all the factors. What that means is that you will never truly see an actual growth stock as part of this screener. If we take a company such as LMND right now, which is losing money quarter after quarter, their grade for “Profitability”, and “Value” would be so low, that their overall Quant grade will be down in the dumps, meaning, it will never be suggested to you.

This is something to keep in mind when you look at what the screener suggests. It really tries to give you stocks that are the most well-rounded, which can mean that you will lose out on other opportunities.

One thing we haven’t mentioned is that Seeking Alpha updates the ratings for all the stocks on a daily basis.

Testing the Quant System

What better test could there be than just dropping $50k across the top 5 stocks currently recommended by the Quant system?

That’s actually what I did.

I had about $52k in a Robinhood account that wasn’t invested in anything, so I figured I can use that brokerage account to buy into the stocks and monitor the results.

robinhood account

All of these positions were purchased on June 4, 2021, and an equal amount of $10,000 was placed in each position.

I’ll post my cost basis for each:

  • DAC: $60.93
  • BGFV: $30.55
  • FINV: $8.73
  • MARA: $24.62
  • BXC: $45.95

For reference to the major indexes, on this day:

  • S&P 500: 4227
  • Dow Jones: 34,750
  • Nasdaq: 13,763
  • Russell 2000: 2283

Now I do plan to hold these positions for a few months. I know that to investors, a few months sounds like a joke, but Seeking Alpha does pride itself on the idea that the Quant system can find you great opportunities right this moment that can be realized very soon. But, if the rating on the stocks changes drastically to the downside, then I would likely be cutting them for a loss.

I will be keeping you guys updated on these positions down below, so make sure to bookmark the page if you’re interested in future updates.

Overall Impressions

Just to recap, I have been a Seeking Alpha Premium member for less than a week. I do like all the different features that are available to me, and I personally do believe that their grading system and the way they display information is useful to any investor.

Personally, I still skeptical on how the Quant system will perform, specifically when it comes to their “Best Rated” stocks. There are some obvious flaws in what sort of stocks would be recommended, and what wouldn’t be recommended.

It’s actually almost the opposite of the approach that a platform such as Motley Fools takes. Motley wants you to buy hyper-growth stocks with no earnings, while the Quant System is pushing you only into stocks that are profitable, has sound valuations, and aren’t overpriced.

I do believe that coming up with your own determination of what factor grades you want to filter for would be pivotal for individual investors when it comes to choosing the sort of stocks you want to be recommended.

Either way, I hope you liked this review, and if you have any questions, make sure to leave them in the comments.

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  1. This was a very helpful review. I was curious for myself how those 5 picks that you bought on 6/4/21 are doing. I even made a nice little chart, but it was a mess when I tried to paste it into the comments section. As of 8/15/21, BGFV and FINV are both down about 30%, while MARA and BXC are up about 30% and DAC is up about 15%. Overall, your $50,000 investment is up to $51,906. During that same time, the S&P 500 has increased from $4,229.89 to $4,468. Had you invested that $50,000 in the S&P 500, you’d be at $52,814.

    To me, your article and the short-term results of your experiment reinforce the importance of doing your own research. I do like the 5 “factor grades” and the way Seeking Alpha breaks that information down seems like it would be helpful, regardless of whether you are a so-called value investor, grown investor or something else. It may well be worth $19.99 per month to have someone else do that work for you.

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      So, this review is definitely due for an update, since it has been over two months since I began using their picks.

      Fortunately, I did do a bit of trade management throughout this period, and the account has considerably overperformed the indices.

      With the good news out of the way, there have been some very obvious flaws to their “Top Stocks” list, and based on how the stocks have been moving in the markets, as well as within their list, I still have the affirmation that their backtested data is completely useless.

      Stay tuned, I will have an update in the next 1-2 weeks.


  2. Dear Mark,
    first of all I love your review for honesty (so hard these days) and for the way you go in depth to the service.
    I can tell you that I am using a lot Seeking Alpha in its free version and after years of different services I could not find a better “magazine” with so interesting analysis. For this reason I was evaluating to buy the premium service.
    From your review I can understand that if somebody is used to do its own due diligence the quant rating can be useful to double check the analysis. I am a long time investor for most of my portfolio (1-2 years of holding) and with Motley Fool (as for IBD) I have the problem that they are not focusing on cheaply valued stocks with strong potential in the long run (I usually evaluate P/E, Price to forward sales, Free Cash, Year on Year growth, and I analyse the moat and the competitive arena). So I believe that Seeking Alpha premium could help my analysis (the only thing I have to avoid is to make the mistake of being seduced by the top quant rating stocks, because we all know that the first personal aspect you have to build in investing it is a strong psychology.
    Thanks once more

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