Our SPIVA® readers often ask what percentage of outperforming funds goes on to beat the market over the following years. Our latest research report, Fleeting Alpha: The Challenge of Consistent Outperformance, answers that exact question in detail.
In this blog, we demonstrate the difficulty and likelihood of consistently outperforming a benchmark.
Using trailing three-year returns from Sept. 30, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2015, we found that 298 large-cap funds (27.38%), 123 mid-cap funds (29.55%), and 101 small-cap funds (16.64%) outperformed the S&P 500®, the S&P MidCap 400®, and S&P SmallCap 600®, respectively.
The following year, based on one-year returns as of Sept. 30, 2016, only 9.38% of large-cap managers, 11.54% of mid-cap managers, and 7.78% of small-cap winners beat the benchmarks. By the end of September 2018, only 2.73% of the 298 winners were able to maintain that status for three consecutive years. Exhibit 1 shows the decline in the percentage of managers who were able to outperform the markets continually.
Because cyclical market conditions can unduly influence a point-in-time snapshot like the analysis above, we also performed the same exercise on a rolling quarterly basis from March 31, 2003, to Sept. 30, 2018, and averaged the figures. This resulted in a smoother trend line that is more indicative of the long-term performance persistence (see Exhibit 2).
On average, there was a fair degree of outperformance persistence in the first year across most categories. However, we see an inverse relationship between the level of persistence and the time horizon; persistence declined in each subsequent year.
Over the long term, roughly 24%-26% of large-cap, mid-cap, and small-cap managers outperformed their benchmarks in a given year. Approximately 30%-33% of these managers went on to outperform again in the next year. There was a similar dramatic decline in the percentage from year 2 to year 3. From one year to the next, only about a third were able to beat the market again.
The probability of beating a benchmark for three consecutive years was only 2.4%-3.7%. Out of all the actively managed funds available in the U.S. (1,765 on average), only 30 large-cap managers, 10 mid-cap managers, and 20 small-cap managers possessed this rare skill. Market participants may want to reconsider chasing “hot hands” or picking managers based on past performance.