The prescription for economic downturns or sickly investment portfolios might be health-care mutual funds, say analysts and published reports.
Such funds invest in a range of companies, everything from pharmaceutical and medical-device makers to HMOs, hospitals and nursing homes. A few concentrate on just one industry segment, such as service providers or biotechnology firms.
“Historically defensive and noncyclical, the health-care sector is gaining added growth from an aging America,” wrote Robert Goldsborough, the lead analyst for health-care sector funds at Morningstar, in a sector overview on July 25. “Demand is relatively stable because people require treatment regardless of the economy, and the need among approximately 78 million baby boomers in the United States for greater treatment makes for a compelling secular growth story.
“An aging population bodes well for the industry’s future prospects,” he added, “because the majority of peoples’ lifetime medical costs are spent in their final few years.”
Morningstar listed nearly three pages of health-care mutual funds. Many of them boasted a high rate of return, ranging from the high-teens percentage range to the high 20s over a five-year period.
In an e-mail, Goldsborough observed that the health-care industry’s recent strong market performance is unusual, since U.S. equity market returns from 1900 to 2000 were in the 6 percent to 7 percent range.
“However, it’s important to note that the health-care sector underperformed the broader U.S. equity market during 2009 and 2010,” he said. It has outperformed the S&P index each year since 2011.
There is approximately $130 billion invested in health-care mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, Morningstar says.
Eddie Yoon, a portfolio manager and research analyst for Fidelity Investments in Boston who currently manages several health-care sector portfolios and sub-portfolios, wrote earlier this year in a 2014 outlook on health care, “I believe that the health-care sector has the potential to continue to deliver stable, consistent performance in the months to come.”
He makes several observations about the space: