Active Managers Fail In 2008: New Data

By Staff
April 20, 2009

Only one sector beats the benchmark; story no better abroad.


More than 70% of all actively managed U.S. equity mutual funds trailed their benchmarks for the five years ending 2008, according to the new Standard & Poor's Index Versus Active Fund Scorecard (SPIVA).

The new report shows that 71.9% of actively managed large-cap funds trailed the S&P 500; 75.9% of actively managed mid-cap funds trailed the S&P MidCap 400; and a stunning 85.5% of actively managed small-cap funds trailed the S&P SmallCap 600.

S&P says the results were consistent with the previous five-year cycle, from 1999 to 2003.

"The belief that bear markets strongly favor active management is a myth," said Srikant Dash, global head of Research & Design at Standard & Poor's, in a statement. "A majority of active funds in each of the nine domestic equity style boxes were outperformed by indices during the down markets of 2008. The bear market of 2000 to 2002 showed similar outcomes."

Actively managed funds also did poorly on a one-year view: 54% of large-cap funds trailed the S&P 500; 75% of mid-cap funds trailed the S&P MidCap 400; and 84% of small-cap funds trailed the S&P SmallCap 600.

Narrowing down, the single worst category for active managers in 2008 was small-cap growth, where a dizzying 96% of managers trailed their benchmark.

The only bright spot was Large-Cap Value ETFs, which trounced the S&P 500 Value index in 2008, with 78% of actively managed funds beating their benchmark.

But the story turns dismal again for active investors when you look abroad, on both a one- and five-year basis. Sixty-three percent of global funds trailed the S&P Global 1200 on a five-year basis; 84% of international funds trailed the S&P 700; 59% of international small-cap funds trailed the S&P Developed Ex-US Small-Cap; and 90% of emerging market funds trailed the S&P/IFCI Composite.

The emerging markets case is especially galling, as active managers like to claim that they add extra value in illiquid markets. On a five-year basis, however, the average emerging market fund trailed its benchmark by more than 3% per year.

Fixed income is no better. Over five years, the percentage of fixed-income funds that outperform their indexes in all standard domestic categories is less than 10%. The only exceptions are in high yield, where 48% of funds beat their benchmark; global fixed income, where 21% beat their benchmark; and emerging markets debt, where 38% beat their benchmark.

All results are adjusted for survivorship bias.



Lean why bond ETFs are an essential part of a diversified portfolio with our bond ETF channel.

Learn how currency-hedged ETFs can reduce the currency risk in your portfolio.


Investors took profits on U.S. equity ETFs on Friday, Nov. 20.

Top three issuers saw net inflows in their products on Monday, Nov. 23.


By Dave Nadig

With the SEC looking to regulate liquidity, should bond ETF investors worry?

By Matt Hougan’s conference offered several actionable ideas for investors.

By Dave Nadig

The exchange just proposed the latest rule to reinvent history on bad ETF trades.

By Matt Hougan

Best deal in the history of finance gets better.


By Nicholas Kalivas

The case for low-volatility, currency-hedged exposure in Europe.

By Nick Stonestreet

ETF firm builds out its business.

By Nicholas Kalivas

A sector-momentum strategy may be just what your portfolio needs in the current market environment.