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Modestly Positive Q1 for Mutual Funds, but One Sector Jumps 42%: Lipper

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The first quarter was ever-so-slightly kind to the average mutual fund, according to the latest Lipper performance report. Equity funds, in fact, improved 0.1% for the period.

Mixed-asset funds moved up close to 0.8% on average, while U.S. diversified equity funds weakened 0.4%, the research group says.

But sector funds posted the strongest and weakest performance: Funds focused on precious metals skyrocketed 42% in Q1’16, while commodities precious funds jumped 12% on average – followed by utility funds at 11%.

On the down side, health care/biotech funds dropped 14% in the first three months of the year. Commodities energy funds moved down about 8%, according to Lipper data.

Many value-tilted funds improved near 3% over the quarter, while many of their growth counterparts fell by 3%.

Looking at equity funds by region, Latin American funds topped the charts with an average gain of over 15%. Emerging-market funds overall jumped 4%.

On the other hand, China funds fell close to 6% in Q1, while Japan funds declined about 5% on average.

Monthly Performance

Equity funds fell 6% on average in January. Only a small percentage, 4%, of equity and mixed-asset funds posted positive returns for the month – which saw the Dow Jones drop 5.5%, and the S&P 500 decline 5.1%. (The Shanghai Composite plunged nearly 24% in the first month of 2016).

In February, equity funds weakened about 0.5% on average, though about one-third of equity funds and mixed-asset funds posted positive returns. (The Dow gained 0.3% for the month, while the S&P 500 declined close to 0.5%.)

In March, equity funds improved 7%, and close to all equity and mixed-asset funds, or 97%, posted positive performance figures. The Dow improved 7%, and the S&P 500 gained 6.6% for the month.

— Check out Lipper Fund Awards: TIAA Investments, Thrivent Win Top Group Honors on ThinkAdvisor.