Only seven of the 30 largest Canadian stock funds showed a positive return in January and just 11 of the big actively managed funds fared better than the Toronto Stock Exchange 300 composite index in that period.
The TSE 300 lost 0.4 per cent last month -- a rocky period marked at first by optimism about the market and then later by investor concern about profits, accounting policies and the strength and timing of the economic recovery. The decline in the TSE 300 includes reinvested dividends.
The big funds, for their part, had a mixed showing in January. The worst performing fund, Investors Summa Fund, was down 2.6 per cent, while the best showing belonged to Mackenzie Universal Canadian Growth Fund. It was up 2 per cent.
A quick scan of the results seems to show no central theme. Some growth funds did reasonably well; others didn't. The same was true for funds with a value orientation.
However, Scott Barlow, a mutual fund analyst at CIBC World Markets Inc., sees a common thread among the best performers. He said the element that separated those funds from the rest of the group is their focus on valuations. "Big or not, growth or not, value or not . . . these are all very valuation focused funds," he said.
For five years, many managers sought out stocks with the highest growth rates, without giving much regard to the prices being paid for that growth, he said. "Now you look at growth and what you are willing to pay," Mr. Barlow said, noting that it is a "much more conservative way to invest."
Mackenzie Universal Canadian Growth follows that approach. The fund, which had assets of $1.6-billion at the end of last month, captured top spot in the performance rankings for the month .
"Our ideal company does have a growth profile to it, but we also want to get that company at the price that makes sense to us," said portfolio manager Phil Taller. "We love growth, but we are not chasing it at any price."
The fund's managers took the opportunity presented by last year's market weakness to acquire high-quality stocks at attractive prices. At the end of 2000, the fund was only about 75 per cent invested in equities. The remainder was in cash. Foreign content in the fund was just under 20 per cent.
Since then, the equity portion has grown to 89 per cent, while cash has fallen to just over 10 per cent. Foreign content, meanwhile, has increased to about 26 per cent by market value.
Some of the stocks acquired during the portfolio changes did well last month, Mr. Taller said. He specifically cites auto parts supplier BorgWarner Inc. and DeVry Inc., which owns and manages educational institutes.
Also, "the steel stocks started to turn around a bit," he said. And Finning International Inc. shares "perked up."
But many funds struggled last month. Among the poorest performers were Investors Summa and AIM Canadian Premier Class Fund, down 2.6 per cent and 2.5 per cent respectively.
Jason Holzer, co-manager of AIM Canadian Premier Class, cautions against judging a fund on one month's performance. "We have rebounded strongly in February and we don't think that January is reflective, at all, of our outlook for the fund," he said.
Last month, the fund's showing was hampered by the fact that it had virtually no exposure in the three best-performing TSE sectors so far this year -- golds and precious minerals, forest products, and metals and mining.
Scott Penman, managing partner of I.G. Investment Management Ltd., noted that Investors Group Inc.'s Summa is a growth fund and "that type of fund did extremely well in the last quarter of . . . 2001." But the markets peaked very early in January and after that, a "lot of stocks that had [posted] huge runs had a correction," he said.
How the big funds fared in January
The 30 largest Canadian equity and large-cap funds, ranked by asset value as of Jan. 31, 2002. Excludes pooled funds.
1-month Net assets Fund name return ('000)Mackenzie Univ. Canadian Growth +2.0% $1,658,719 Mackenzie Univ. Future +0.7 1,511,680 CI Harbour Fund +0.6 1,392,864 Investors Canadian Equity +0.4 2,361,022 Royal Canadian Equity +0.3 3,611,356 Trimark Canadian Endeavour +0.2 1,377,762 Trimark Select Canadian Growth +0.1 3,645,171 AIC Advantage II -0.1 2,679,486 Trimark Canadian - SC -0.3 1,962,532 Spectrum Canadian Equity -0.3 1,531,258 London Life Canadian Equity -0.3 1,942,992 MD Equity -0.4 1,711,742 TD Canadian Equity -0.4 1,351,706 Fidelity Disciplined Equity-A -0.5 1,151,222 AIC Advantage -0.5 2,555,060 SEI Canadian Equity -0.6 864,285 Fidelity True North-A -0.6 2,876,080 Dynamic Power Canadian Growth -0.8 1,096,304 BMO Equity -1.0 1,418,686 AGF Canadian Stock -1.0 1,849,099 Investors Canadian Large Cap Value -1.1 1,865,912 Altamira Equity -1.2 1,139,840 PH & N Canadian Equity -1.3 1,052,307 CIBC Core Canadian Equity -1.5 1,962,758 Mackenzie Ivy Canadian -1.5 5,263,498 Scotia Canadian Blue Chip -1.8 758,531 AIM Canadian Premier -2.1 783,539 AIC Diversified Canada -2.3 3,686,564 AIM Canadian Premier Class -2.5 992,428 Investors Summa -2.6 2,650,910
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