This illustrates the perils of market timing by funds and is one of the key factors that explains the difference in fund performance
One of the key tenets of mutual fund management is to stay fully invested-or almost fully invested-at all times. This idea is in turn derived from another belief of the fund management business. Fund managers argue that you simply cannot time the market-to enter of exit at what you think is the opportune time. The market will always get you. That is, when you move significantly into cash, the market, or rather the stocks that you sold off to buy back later, may take off. So as not to miss that unanticipated rally, you must stay invested in all times.
But do fund managers practice this regularly? Let's see what they did at the end of February 2011, when it looked like the market was headed down.
Diversified equity funds had, on an average, 8.38% of their assets allocated to cash as of end-February 2011, according to Mutual Funds India data. The market remained comatose for the first three weeks of March. And then suddenly took off, rising by 2,000 points on the Sensex in a matter of 10 days.
This is precisely among those events that underline the wisdom of staying fully invested at all times. At least that is what fund companies would preach. Fine logic this, provided that they were fully invested on 21st March, to take advantage of the flare-up on the morning of 22nd March. Data on daily cash levels in funds in March is not available. But we can take a guess by looking at February end data. In short we can assume that cash levels in funds were similar on the morning of 22nd March as they were end-February.
So, how much cash did equity diversified funds have at the end of February 2011? We had only looked at the growth funds universe of 222. On an average, 93 equity diversified growth funds had around 13.5% of their net assets in cash. Of this, 30 funds had more than 14% of their money in cash, that is 14% of the total universe.
Some of the large and well known funds like Reliance Small Cap, UTI Variable Investment Scheme and UTI Wealth Builder were caught by surprise. Edelweiss Nifty Enhancer fund - Plan A and Plan B, both had around 29% of their net assets in cash, whereas Escorts Growth Plan had around 33% and Escorts High Yield Equity Plan had around 29.50% of their net assets in cash at the end of February 2011. Sundaram Select Midcap had around 17% and Sundaram CAPEX Opportunities had 16.24% of their net assets in cash at the end of February 2011. There were six other Sundaram schemes, such as Sundaram Equity Multiplier, Sundaram Growth, Sundaram India Leadership, Sundaram Media & Entertainment Opportunities Fund - Ret, Sundaram Rural India, and Sundaram Select Focus that had an average of 12.24% of their net assets in cash. Not to our surprise, as many as six JM funds had on an average 12.30% of their net assets in cash. This is not something unusual, because as Moneylife has pointed out earlier, JM has proved to be the worst fund house in every situation.
Among the funds that were fully invested, and therefore reaped the benefit of the rally, were three Tata funds that had on an average only 0.77% of their net assets in cash. HDFC Capital Builder and HDFC Growth had just 1.13% and 1.89% of their assets in cash, respectively. ICICI Prudential Focused Bluechip Equity Fund had 1.5% in cash and there were three Principal funds (Principal Growth Fund, Principal Large Cap Fund and Principal Services Industries Fund) which had on average only 1.11% in cash.
While being fully invested is only one of the many factors that determine performance (the main factor being stock selection), it is quite surprising that so many funds were trying to time the market by keeping so much of their assets in cash at the end of February.
The US markets ended lower on Thursday but displaying resilience, markets in Asia were mostly higher despite the latest quake in Japan
The local market is likely to open soft this morning as effects of a fresh 7.1 magnitude, which had its epicentre in the sea off the northeast coast of Japan on Thursday, rattled markets worldwide. US markets ended lower on Thursday following the news and as a difference in opinion over the federal budget threatened to shut down some government offices. The Asian pack was mostly higher in early trade on the last trading day of the week taking the Japanese earthquake news in its stride. A hike in interest rates by the European Central Bank (ECB) on Thursday, the first in almost three years, also weighed on investors in Asia. The SGX Nifty was five points down at 5,897 compared to its previous close of 5,902.
Yesterday the market opened flat, tracking the mixed bias in the Asian region. The Sensex opened at 19,621, nine points up from its previous close, while the Nifty shed three points at the opening at 5,989. Profit booking amid a fair degree of choppiness ensured that the indices stayed in the negative for the entire morning session. The market touched the day's low at around 10.30am, with the Sensex retracing 75 points to 19,537, its intra-day low, and the Nifty touched 5,866, down 26 points.
The market inched its way up, and was back into the green at around 12.50pm. However, continued fluctuations saw the indices popping in and out of the red quite a few times. The benchmarks scaled their intra-day highs at 2pm, but could not sustain those levels on continued volatility. At the day's high, the Sensex touched 19,665 and the Nifty was at 5,906. The market closed in the red for the third day in a row, the Sensex falling by 21 points to 19,591 and the Nifty erasing six points to close at 5886.
The market is moving in a tight range after the recent rally. It has to break above the recent highs for the rally to continue. If not, the market will give up some of the recent gains.
US markets closed lower on news of the latest earthquake hitting northeast Japan. However, stocks ended off the day’s lows on positive economic news, which also offset concerns about the debt problems in the Euro zone. Initial jobless claims fell more-than-expected last week. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 382,000, the Labor Department said. The previous week’s figure was revised up to 392,000 from the earlier figure of 388,000. A rise in same store retail sales lifted stocks like Costco Wholesale, Limited Brands and Kohl’s.
Meanwhile, the ECB on Thursday increased its benchmark rate by a quarter percentage point to 1.25% and said that it would resort to more hikes, if needed.
The Dow fell 17.26 points (0.14%) to 12,409.49. The S&P 500 shed 2.03 points (0.15%) to 1,333.51 and the Nasdaq was down 3.68 points (0.13%) to 2,796.14.
Markets in Asia were mostly higher in early trade on Friday as investors brushed aside news of the latest earthquake. Northeastern Japan was rocked by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the biggest since 11th March, causing widespread power outages through the north, shaking buildings in Tokyo and putting the country on alert for the safety of its nuclear power plants. The 0.25% hike in key benchmark rates by the ECB also raised concerns about lower spending in Euro zone nations.
The Shanghai Composite gained 0.17%, the Hang Seng rose 0.36%, the Jakarta Composite advanced 0.22%, the Nikkei 225 surged 0.91%, the Straits Times added 0.05%, the Seoul Composite rose 0.41% and the Taiwan Weighted was up 0.05%. On the other hand, the KLSE Composite shed 0.06% in early trade.
Back home, global banking giant StanChart yesterday projected India’s economic growth to slow down to 8.1% in 2011-12 in view of continuing inflationary pressure and high interest rates.
StanChart said that although private consumption has been on an upswing, the growth in investments has been hit by inflation, higher interest rates and increased risk in the area of governance like the recent political confrontations due to various scams
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