Large-cap equity funds have become one of the popular categories for index investing because relatively few actively managed large-cap funds beat their benchmarks consistently year after year. But certain categories of actively managed funds could be making a comeback.
According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, actively managed large-cap core equity funds in July experienced their best performance in nearly five years compared to their benchmarks. Sixty-five percent of large-cap core funds beat their benchmark in July and large-cap value funds performed even better, with 69% besting their benchmarks.
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Year to date, however, growth funds performed best compared to their respective benchmarks. Sixty-seven percent of large-cap actively managed growth funds outperformed their benchmarks YTD compared to just 28% of large-cap core and 58% of large-cap value funds.
Over the first seven months of the year, half of all large-cap equity funds beat their benchmarks. That’s less than 58% that outperformed over the same period last year but higher than the 48% that did for all of 2017. Keep in mind that the current bull market, as measured by the S&P 500, is poised to become the longest one ever in just 14 trading days, according to BofA Merrill Lynch analysts. The end of the bull market is often cited as the time when actively managed funds should outperform index funds, but it’s not certain that will happen.
Gregg S. Fisher, founder, portfolio manager and head of research at Gerstein Fisher, wrote in his most recent investment letter that “some of the gains for large-cap growth stocks” are due to “the relentless growth of market-cap-weighted passive indexing and exchange-traded funds, which detaches prices from fundamentals (markets are great examples of mass human behavior).” He expects value investing will ultimately win out but in the meantime recommends that investors “hold both value and growth stocks in a diversified portfolio.”
Actively managed growth funds in the small-cap and mid-cap categories, like their large-cap counterparts, were also the best performers year to date compared to their benchmarks, according to Merrill. Sixty-six percent of small-cap growth funds and 75% of mid-cap growth funds beat the Russell 2000 and Russell Midcap indexes, respectively.