GOLDMAN: 2014 Is Turning Into An 'Annus Horribilis' For The World's Best Stock Pickers

It’s been a pretty volatile year, especially for the high-growth momentum stocks in the US. Some of this has transferred to Australia, with tech stocks like Freelancer.com getting hit hard following falls on the NASDAQ.

It has been a challenging environment for equity fund managers who are having just the worst time keeping up with the market.

“Calendar year 2014 is now 1/3 behind us and for many equity portfolio managers the calendar is turning into an annus horribilis to use the phrase immortalised by Queen Elizabeth II,” wrote Goldman Sachs’ David Kostin in a new note to clients. “Nearly 90% of large-cap growth mutual funds, 90% of value funds, and 2/3 of core funds are trailing their style return benchmarks YTD (1%, 4%, and 2%, respectively).”

Generally, you hear that somewhere between 50% to 80% of fund managers will lag the markets. So indeed, this annus has been horribilis.

“Stock-picking has been extraordinarily challenging this year,” added Kostin. “The typical hedge fund had a YTD return slightly below zero as of April 30. Dispersion of S&P 500 stock returns for the last three months ranks at the 1st percentile compared with the past 30 years. Within Consumer Discretionary, where hedge funds have nearly 25% of their net exposure, the return dispersion also ranks in the 1st percentile. Simply put, 2/3 of consumer stocks usually have a three-month return within a 29 percentage point span. However, the range is currently just 16 percentage points which makes both long and short security selection extremely difficult compared with prior periods.”

In other words, the folks who have been taking the advice of Jack Bogle and Warren Buffett have been beating 90% of the pros.

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