FAANG-Shunning Stock Pickers Just Had Worst Month Since 2009
(Bloomberg) -- You’ve probably heard that avoiding U.S. tech megacaps is a risky bet. The cost may be bigger than you thought.
Consider large-cap core funds, which pick stocks based on a mix of growth potential and valuation. Last month, only 13 percent of them beat their benchmarks, the worst showing since Bank of America Corp. began compiling the data in 2009.
While many factors may have contributed to the poor performance, strategists led by Savita Subramanian said that shunning the FAANG block was one big culprit. In a month when the S&P 500 Index rose 3 percent, Apple shares surged 20 percent while the quartet of Facebook Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Netflix Inc. and Google parent Alphabet Inc. climbed 6 percent.
Without those five stocks, the S&P 500’s August gain would have been shaved to 1.8 percent. In other words, when the market’s newly created wealth was highly concentrated in these few tech giants, the cost of avoiding them could be disastrous. The rally in FAANG stocks has drawn warnings from strategists at firms such as BofA and Wolfe Research, who said their gains have gone too far, too fast.
“Core funds have lagged since early last year, a period during which FAANG stocks have beat the market by a wide margin,” Subramanian wrote in a note Friday. “They have been chronically underweight FAANG stocks since then, and cut down their relative exposure even further recently.”
Growth funds struggled too, partly due to their aversion to Apple, according to BofA. The group saw all of their outperformance in the first six months of 2018 wiped out in August as only 16 percent exceeded the market.
Value managers fared better, with 46 percent beating their benchmarks.
Apple in particular was an alpha detractor for managers. According to an estimate by Wells Fargo, the stock alone accounted for more than half of the underperformance experienced by large-cap funds.
The risk for under-owning the iPhone maker is not going to dissipate as the stock could see a further boost from corporate buybacks, momentum chasers and passive investors, said Chris Harvey, head of equity strategy at Wells Fargo, who has flagged the danger for the past two months.
“What triggered our concern this summer was the extreme negative sentiment surrounding the name,” Harvey wrote in a note earlier this week. “In August, positioning risk related to AAPL finally came to roost.”
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