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Active managers fall further behind the indexes they aim to beat

Fewer stock pickers are beating their indexes, with value managers among the worst performers.

Just 36% of actively managed stock funds topped indexes in the year through June, down from 43% in 2017, according to a Morningstar report. Pickers of value stocks saw their success rates drop as much as 27 percentage points compared with the prior year.

The famous bull sculpture stands near Wall Street in New York, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. U.S. stocks halted a five-day slide that dragged global equities into a bear market, as oil rebounded from a 12-year low and bank shares surged. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg
The famous bull sculpture stands near Wall Street in New York, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. U.S. stocks halted a five-day slide that dragged global equities into a bear market, as oil rebounded from a 12-year low and bank shares surged. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Low-cost index funds, such as those offered by Vanguard, have been gaining market share for years as stock and bond pickers struggle to beat markets net of fees. As investors flock to index funds, firms have been slashing costs. This month, Fidelity Investments began offering two indexed mutual funds for free.

CategorySuccess Rate, 2018*Success Rate, 2017
Large Cap Blend36.2%48.8%
Small Cap Blend23.131.5
Foreign Large Cap Blend30.153.8
Intermediate-Term Bond70.985.1
Corporate Bond48.176

*Percentage of funds beating benchmarks. Source: Morningstar

These expense ratios were closer to the average fund fee in 1996.
August 15

Managers of intermediate-term bond funds were the only category to beat indexes, with more than 70% of actively run funds outperforming their benchmarks over the year through June. But the success rate of these managers also declined from the prior year.

“Active managers in the category have been rewarded handsomely for assuming credit risk as both investment-grade and below-investment-grade credits have enjoyed a sustained rally,” the report’s authors Ben Johnson, Alex Bryan and Adam McCullough wrote.

The Morningstar report examined results of 4,500 active and passive U.S. mutual and exchange-trade funds with approximately $16.1 trillion in assets, or about 79% of the U.S. market.