With Monday’s modest gain, the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSEArca: SPY), the world’s largest exchange traded fund, is up almost 9.3% year-to-date after touching a record high earlier in November’s first trading session.
That is a solid, though not jaw-dropping performance, but one that is vexing mutual fund managers that are finding it harder than ever to beat their benchmarks. “Eight out of 10 U.S. stock funds focusing on large growth companies are trailing their benchmark index, the second-highest proportion in a decade,” report Inyoung Hwang and Lu Wang for Bloomberg, citing Morningstar data.
The inability of fund managers to top their benchmarks and the S&P 500 comes as less than half of the members of the benchmark U.S. index are up at least 10% year-to-date. Part of the reason for fund managers lagging broader benchmarks is that they stuck with some lagging sectors while ignoring winning groups.
For example, some marquee consumer discretionary stocks were among fund managers’ favorites at the start of the third quarter while those managers opted to skirt the utilities sector, Bloomberg reported citing Goldman Sachs. The problem is the Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLY) has been the second-worst of the nine sector SPDR ETFs this year while only the Health Care Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLV) has topped the Utilities Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLU). [Not a Jaw-Dropping Bounce for Sector ETFs]
Just six of XLY’s top-10 holdings have traded higher this year while one, Amazon (NasdaqGS: AMZN), is in a bear market. On the other hand, all of XLV’s top-10 holdings have traded higher this year with only Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) lagging the broader market.
Year-to-date, five of the nine sector SPDR ETFs have beaten the S&P 500. Technology is reportedly one sector that has been a thorn in the sides of mutual fund managers, but that argument loses credibility when noting the Technology Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLK) is up more than 15% this year.