Tag Archives: active management

Jan 13, 2021

Oscillations in Opportunity

2020 was a year of two reversals for the market. First, equities recovered from the depths of March to finish the year strongly, and second, smaller-cap and value stocks staged a roaring comeback in the final quarter. We can better understand the second reversal by analyzing the market’s distribution of returns and the performance of…

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Dec 9, 2020

The Distribution of Alpha

Investment management is a zero sum game. The source of outperformance for a market’s outperformers is the underperformance of the same market’s underperformers. Properly measured, the weighted average sum of the winners’ gains is exactly equal (before costs) to the weighted average sum of the losers’ losses. This identity, along with the professionalization of the…

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Dec 1, 2020

The Dangers of Extrapolation

The contrasts between the first 10 months of 2020 and the month of November were vivid. Consider: At the end of October, the year-to-date total return of the S&P 500® was barely positive (2.77%), but was well ahead of the returns of the S&P MidCap 400® (-6.63%) and the S&P SmallCap 600® (-13.06%). In November,…

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Nov 9, 2020

Risk-Adjusted SPIVA®: No More Excuses?

For the first time, the SPIVA Europe Mid-Year 2020 Scorecard introduced risk-adjusted performance evaluations of European equity funds. Previously, proponents of active fund management may have criticized the SPIVA scorecard for measuring performance on a return-only basis. They may have argued that this only told one side of the story, and that their abilities should…

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Oct 7, 2020

Not a Coincidence

We recently issued our mid-year SPIVA® reports for the U.S., Australia, and Europe, and other regions will follow in due course. Although one can sometimes find exceptions in the short run, the long-term results of SPIVA can be easily summarized: The majority of active managers underperform most of the time. Historical success does not predict…

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Oct 6, 2020

Did Australian Active Funds Outperform Benchmarks amid the COVID-19 Pandemic?

With the COVID-19 pandemic, equity markets around the world experienced massive declines with heightened volatility, and the Australian equity market was not immune. Various equity market segments experienced rapid market sell-offs followed by slow recoveries in H1 2020, with the S&P/ASX 200, S&P/ASX Mid-Small, and S&P/ASX 200 A-REIT decreasing 10.4%, 6.9%, and 21.3%, respectively. Due…

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Sep 29, 2020

SPIVA® U.S. Mid-Year 2020 Scorecard: Convergence to Underperformance

According to the SPIVA U.S. Mid-Year 2020 Scorecard, most active fund managers in the U.S. underperformed the market over the past year. Among actively managed domestic equity funds, 67% lagged the S&P Composite 1500® during the 12 months ending June 30, 2020, and the majority of active managers underperformed their benchmarks in 11 out of…

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Sep 21, 2020

Sectors and Electors

Markets expect elevated volatility surrounding the U.S. Presidential election, now just six weeks away. The VIX futures curve currently peaks in November, but as long ago as April a close observer could detect expectations of electoral volatility. Increased volatility may create an unusual opportunity for sector allocators. To understand why, we need to remember that…

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Sep 15, 2020

Courage vs. Comfort

Philosophers have long argued that courage is the most essential human virtue, because without courage, all other virtues lie in jeopardy. Remarkably, the theorizing of ethicists has an implication for practical portfolio management. We can illustrate this with a simple example in Exhibit 1. It’s Dec. 31, 1999, and a professional investor is considering buying…

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Jul 20, 2020

Performance Trickery, part 4

As a potential investor, would you be impressed by the pattern of fund returns summarized in Exhibit 1?  (I would be.) Exhibit 1. Portfolio and Benchmark Cumulative Returns Over the course of 15 years, the portfolio in question notched a total return of 69%, versus only 50% for its benchmark.  The accumulation of added value…

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