With the bull market charging right through 2017, most active fund managers couldn’t keep up, according to a new report.

According to the full-year 2017 SPIVA U.S. Scorecard, released last week by S&P Dow Jones Indices, the boon of a surging equities market did not benefit active management. On a year-over-year basis, the S&P Composite 1500 index outperformed domestic equity mutual funds 63 percent of the time.

On a longer investing horizon, the average active domestic mutual fund manager was outperformed by the S&P 1500 index more than 80 percent of the time over three-, five-, 10-, and 15-year trailing periods.

According to S&P Dow Jones indices, growth managers fared well during the year across market capitalizations. Larger funds also tended to outperform smaller funds.

In 2017, 74 percent of small-cap value managers were outperformed by the S&P SmallCap 600 index, making them the worst performers relative to their benchmarks among equities. At the same time, only 33 percent of large-cap growth managers were outpaced by the S&P 500 Growth index.

Bond managers did not perform much better last year. The passive Barclay’s US Government/Credit Long index outperformed nearly 97 percent of active investment-grade long funds in 2017, the worst performing active manager category. Investment-grade short bond fund managers enjoyed the best relative performance over the year, as only 22 percent were outperformed by the Barclays US Government/Credit 1-3 Year index.

Over a 15-year investment horizon, nearly 99 percent of small-cap growth managers were outperformed by the benchmark S&P Small Cap index, making them the worst-performing equity managers. Real estate funds, the equity category with the best-performing active managers, were outpaced by the passive S&P United States REIT index 81 percent of the time over a trailing 15-year investment horizon.

The Barclays US Corporate High Yield index outperformed active, high-yield fund managers 98 percent of the time, making them the worst-performing fixed-income managers over the past 15 years. Active managers fared much better in emerging market debt, where the Barclays Emerging Markets bond index outpaced managers 67 percent of the time over the past 15 years.

To complicate fund selection further, the SPIVA report also noted that, over a 15-year time horizon, 58 percent of domestic equity funds, 55 percent of international equity funds and 48 percent of all fixed-income funds were either merged or liquidated.

The SPIVA scorecards account for high levels of fund attrition by using the CRSP Survivor-Bias-Free US Mutual Fund Database. Each scorecard examines the performance of active management against major benchmark indexes.
 

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