We're halfway through what's turned out a roller coaster of a year for equity markets.
Share markets around the world plunged by between 30 and 40 per cent in late March as the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic became clear.
Yet, somehow, despite border closures and lockdowns pushing New Zealand and much of the world into recession, the local NZX-50 is tracking just 1 per cent off where it was when we started the annual Brokers' Picks game on December 16.
"Actually there's been more carnage on the market than what the headline index might suggest," says Mark Lister, Head of Private Wealth Research at Craigs Investment Partners.
Only four NZX50 companies - a2 Milk, F&P Healthcare, Chorus and Pushpay - had really fired this year, he said.
"The a2 and F&P Healthcare effect has been phenomenal."
Those two, accounting for 30 per cent of the index total weighting, and both performing very strongly, had dragged the index up significantly.
In fact, just eight out of the 50 index stocks were in the black this year , Lister said.
"I count 20 companies down more than 20 per cent. If I just look at the NZX-50 Year to date and do the average share price change, it's -15 per cent."
With most of the players in the Brokers Picks game having picked a2 Milk, success was this year really coming down to avoiding any of the stocks that had really fallen off a cliff, Lister said.
Overall the players haven't performed too badly, with no one facing double-digit losses.
Leading the pack at this stage is broker Hamilton Hindin Greene which had the good foresight to pick both market stars - F&P Healthcare and a2 Milk.
That puts them 4.8 per cent up, well off the pace of last year's winner MSL Markets with bull market returns of 55.6 per cent.
In fact, even last year's worst performer returned more than 13 per cent.
In second place at this stage is Forsyth Barr - up 2.7 per cent- by virtue of including both a2 and Chorus.
Also still in the black is MSL Markets - at 1.4 per cent.
The other players have all been dragged down due to picking at least stock that has been hit hard by Covid-19.
For example Jarden, currently off 6.7 per cent - had returns dragged down by retailer Kathmandu, which is off nearly 50 per cent.
"We've seen quite a divergence in returns with cyclicals underperforming," said Jarden head of research Arie Dekker.
"In particular companies with retail; tourism and housing market exposure. Underperformance has been elevated in companies with too much debt."
For the record NZ retail investor web forum Sharetrader has been tracking the Herald Broker Picks game and is currently up 12 per cent - by virtue of a2 as well as outperforming minnows Plexure and Bliss Technologies.
One positive about the local market now is that we are not seeing any NZX-50 companies in danger of falling over - as they did after the crash of 1987.
Those that have needed to have been able to raise capital.
"Back then it was all smoke and mirrors and they got found out and fell to pieces," Lister said. "Now it's simply good businesses that have fallen on challenging times or come unstuck because they had more debt than they should have."
"There's no businesses on NZX-50 where I look at them and think: that's a business that won't be here in 12 months," he said.
Disclaimer - It's a game
Readers should recognise that the results of the Brokers' Picks are skewed by some features of the game. The figures exclude brokers fees. Brokers are asked to choose the securities that will give the best short-term performance. If they had been asked to choose, for example, a five-year term, the results might be different. The survey does not allow brokers to review choices during the year. The survey implies a one-size-fits-all approach. It takes no account of individual circumstances such as an investor's appetite for risk, need for income or tax circumstances. The views expressed do not constitute personalised financial advice and are not directed at any person. Finally, past performance is no guarantee of future performance.