Do you believe in the wisdom of crowds? At the Fool, we've generally made a virtue of going against the crowd, as exemplified in Warren Buffett's famous quote "be greedy when others are fearful, and fearful when they are greedy". You may also try to shun the crowd but you still can't ignore it.
The Share Centre has just named the top five popular Isa stocks among its crowd of investors. You probably won't be surprised by the results, well maybe one of them will deliver a jolt!
In with a bullet at number one is pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline(LSE: GSK), possibly the FTSE 100's favourite long-term buy and hold. Glaxo has stretched our patience lately thanks to the Chinese bribery scandal, expiring patents and concern about its drug pipeline. The stock is actually down 12% over the past year but it does now trade at just 7.86 times earnings, while offering a juicier-than-usual yield of 5.86%. The Share Centre reckons its "pipeline of new drugs, diversification across consumer healthcare as well as biotechnology, and increasing exposure to emerging markets" makes it a 'buy' and the crowd goes wild.
Royal Dutch Shell
Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell(LSE: RDSB) has had an even more torrid year, falling 22%, but it's up 16% in the last month and if the oil price revival continues you can expect more of that. The yield remains in peril although management will fight tooth and nail to retain it, and again, pricier oil will help. It isn't often that a company's yield matches its P/E ratio, but both are hovering around 7.5% today. If you want to play the oil price rebound, it may be time to join the crowd.
Lloyds Banking Group
I love Lloyds Banking Group(LSE: LLOY) so much I named it my stock tip for 2016, and in this case I don't mind running with the crowd. The share price is fighting back after getting caught up in the January sell-off as investors anticipate a forecast yield of 6.5% for December 2017. The slowing domestic economy may knock this UK-focused retail bank but that shouldn't deter investors who should be looking to hold this stock for decades.
I was surprised to see troubled mining giant Glencore(LSE: GLEN) flying high in fourth place but it only goes to show there's no such thing as bad publicity. After last year's travails, the stock is up a crowd-pleasing 71% in the last month but don't buy and expect a repeat performance in March. The commodities rally may be spent for now, as the reality of a slowing China reasserts itself. Expect more volatility to come.
Investors can't shake their oil addiction with BP(LSE: BP) revving its engines at number five. It currently yields a gushing 7.28% but it remains at risk with net debt soaring from $22.6bn to $27.2bn over the last year and the world swimming in a glut of black gooey stuff. The Share Centre hails it as a "buy" as management slashes costs to survive cheap oil. The truth is that where the oil price leads, BP will follow. So where will oil go next? No crowd on earth can answer that.
Most of these big names are trading at tempting valuations due to the recent share price sell-off. Buying at times like these is just one way you can make serious money from the stock market, and there are other strategies that can help.
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Harvey Jones has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended GlaxoSmithKline and Royal Dutch Shell B. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.