Stockpickers, Nursing Losses Despite Bull Run, Look To 2017

December 28, 2016

New York (Reuters) – Financial pundits shouted about record-high levels for the stock market in 2016, but for actively managed stock mutual funds there was another record, one they would rather keep quiet: the largest amount of net withdrawals ever recorded.

Benchmark equity indexes hit fresh peaks, and the S&P 500 is on course for an eighth-consecutive year of positive total returns. However, in the battle between active and passive funds to grab investment dollars in a record price environment, there was no contest.

U.S.-based actively managed stock funds suffered $288 billion in withdrawals year-to-date through November, the largest on record, according to Thomson Reuters Lipper service. The figure tops outflows of $139 billion in 2015 and $218 billion in 2008.

On the passive side, stock index mutual funds and equity exchange-traded funds each attracted about the same amount of new cash, more than $112 billion apiece in 2016, Lipper said.

Only 33% Beat Benchmark

Just 33% of active stock managers beat their benchmark this year, according to investment bank Jefferies, driving investors to lower-cost funds and ETFs that try to track indexes, rather than try to beat them.

"If we don't see that in 2017, chances are you've run out of excuses, and the market will simply come to the conclusion that markets are too efficient for the number of active managers that are out there, and the industry as a whole will need to shrink," said Jefferies analyst Surinder Thind, who covers asset management.

Performance will have to improve to bring investors back, according to Thind.

Withdrawals came from some of the industry's best-known actively managed funds.

Investors pulled $8.3 billion from the Will Danoff-managed Fidelity Contrafund. American Funds' Growth Fund of America had a similar net withdrawal, representing more than 5% of the funds' assets when the year began.

Outflows of $6.4 billion cost Fidelity Growth Company Fund, managed by Steve Wymer, more than a seventh of its assets, the data shows.


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