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This will be the third time I've examined the investing thesis that the worst-performing stocks of the year can provide a quick, market-beating bounce the following January.

It might also be the last, as I'm getting less enamoured of the theory, even though it actually worked well in Canada in 2014.

First, though, let's explain the ideas behind the strategy. Many investors, we suppose, are selling at year-end, capturing losses to offset capital gains. Institutions that report holdings at year-end may also be dumping losers so they don't show up, incriminatingly, on their lists of investments.

After such supposed selling pressure, these stocks would revert to the mean, at least a little, when the calendar turned to Jan. 1.

The U.S. investing newspaper Barron's, which has periodically written about this idea, observed that the 10 biggest decliners in the Standard & Poor's 500 in each year from 2009 to 2011 beat, on average, the overall market in the first two weeks of the following January.

When I ran the numbers for the 2012 losers at the end of 2013, I found they also produced market-beating gains over the course of the full year.

So, what's the complaint? While there may be something to this idea, it seems to be getting harder to separate the "new year effect" from other factors, such as a big one: The sectors the stocks are in.

Which brings us back to the fabulous Canadian results. In December, 2013, I identified the 10 worst performers in the S&P/TSX composite with just a few days of trading to go in the year.

"In Canada, the thesis is more problematic," I said, because nine of the 10 dogs were gold miners. "In considering the strategy for 2014, then, it might be wise to hold for the short-term if you're buying the Canadian losers – depending, of course, on how you feel about the prospects for gold in the coming months."

Yeah. So, not coincidentally, nine of the 10 losers – the gold miners – outperformed the 0.5-per-cent gain in the composite in the first two weeks of January. Bullion itself was rising, albeit slightly (3 per cent).

The leveraged mining stocks gained more, with five in double digits. And most built handily on their gains through the end of January; the average January gain for the 10 losers was 21.5 per cent, versus a barely-better-than-flat S&P/TSX composite.

And, well, that didn't last: As the year comes to a close, just three of the 10 are outperforming the benchmark's 6-per-cent return. Those would be Detour Gold Corp., which has nearly doubled; Rio Alto Mining Ltd., up by more than half; and Centerra Gold Inc., up by more than a quarter.

In the United States, seven of the 10 S&P 500 losers beat the 0.5-per-cent loss of the index in the first two weeks, but many just eked out their win.

When you factor in the double-digit losses of a couple of the stocks on the list, the group's average 0.4-per-cent loss was barely better than the index.

The group then fell further behind as the year progressed, lagging the index at the end of January and by year-end.

There were some real winners – Edwards Lifesciences Corp. doubled, and CenturyLink Inc., FirstEnergy Corp. and Intuitive Surgical Inc. all gained by roughly a third.

And there were some disasters, as Peabody Energy, which lost 31 per cent in 2013, added another loss of nearly 60 per cent this year. Cliffs Natural Resources Inc., the second-biggest 2013 loser at negative 37.2 per cent, dropped another 75 per cent this year and would have made the list again, had it not gotten kicked out of the S&P 500 in May.

We present in the accompanying table the 10 worst performers on both sides of the border through Monday's trading for your consideration.

And we say this: There are some companies here that may have been oversold and could see market-beating gains in the first trading days of January.

But other stocks – note the overwhelming number of energy concerns – will likely see their shares driven by more important factors, such as how oil traders are divining the moves made in Saudi Arabia.

It may be that 2015 is the year we give this theory a rest.