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The Lone Medalist Among Managed-Futures Funds

Jason Kephart, CFA

Jason Kephart: After three years of dismal performance, investors probably thought they were never, ever getting back together with managed-futures funds. But sometimes, the markets are going to hate, hate, hate, and these funds have shown they are pretty good at shaking it off. That's because they are trend followers. They use futures contracts to invest in trends going up and down, and they tend to perform at their best when markets are at an extreme, like in 2008.

In 2014, the managed-futures category's average return of 10% was better than all other alternative categories, largely because they were able to take advantage of the collapse in oil. Investors need to be very careful when it comes to picking funds in the category, though, because some of these funds have nightmare fees that are dressed up as daydreams. That's because they are using total-return swaps to access the subadvisors. This means that the subadvisor's management fee and performance fee aren't included in the annual report net expense ratio. So, the fees are actually much higher than stated.

AQR Managed Futures (AQMNX) is our one medalist in the category. Its fees are as advertised, and it has performed well for investors over time. We're confident this fund isn't going to go out of style.