Three quant funds hurt by market shock.
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This article originally appeared in Morningstar FundInvestor, an award-winning newsletter that presents investment strategies and tracks 500 funds.
The dog days of summer?
Uh-uh. Not this year. Sure, it was hot and muggy outside, but the stock market has been anything but slow, stagnant, or mundane. We saw in a matter of two weeks the S&P 500 fall nearly 8% from its high on July 19, 2007, only to regain 4.5% in the next three days. From there it was off 6% a week later. The S&P 500 Index was up nicely in the third quarter, but there was extreme volatility along the way. The Russell 2000 Index has acted similarly, as have other markets around the world.
Of particular concern in volatile markets are quantitative strategies. That's because most quantitative approaches build portfolios based on various trends-both fundamental and technical-and when those trends quickly change, it can take some time for some programs to catch on. The markets adjust faster than they do because it takes a while for the new reality to show up in earnings reports and even analyst estimates of future earnings.
American Century Income & Growth
Between July 19 and Aug. 15 this summer, this large-value fund lost 11.75%-nearly 4 percentage points more than the S&P 500 Index. It also suffered more than the average large-cap fund. A healthy slug of financials, including substantive stakes in Citigroup and Washington Mutual, certainly hurt. Over the long haul, the fund has posted mediocre results versus its category peers, though it looks better compared with its benchmark, the S&P 500 Index, and has met its goal of outperforming that bogy in most 12-month periods.
American Century's roots are in quantitative investing, and here the managers emphasize dividend yield as well as earnings stability and some momentum traits, while keeping the portfolio's sector and industry weightings close to those of the S&P 500 Index. The fund has been more volatile than other large-value funds, and its return consistency rating is low, suggesting bigger performance swings. That may be too high a price to pay for returns only marginally better than those of the S&P 500 Index.
Bogle Small Cap Growth
This closed small-blend fund was among the hardest-hit quant funds in the 500: It fell 15.4% in the recent sell-off. The quant fund is driven by fundamental data pulled from SEC filings such as 10-Qs. However, even that sort of past historical information can be quickly devalued in a market shock, and that's likely why the fund has performed poorly. We continue to recommend the fund, however, considering manager John Bogle Jr.'s experience with quantitative investing and his good stock-picking over the long haul, thanks in part to his models' emphases on earnings growth and earnings quality. Also, Bogle's is a shareholder-friendly firm.