The rally in investment assets continued in the second quarter of 2017. All major asset classes earned positive returns for the quarter, and most have posted very strong returns year-to-date.
We’ve been getting a lot of questions about our alternative investments recently, so we thought we would introduce a new, at least quasi-regular, column in our newsletter focusing on this asset class. We’ll talk this time about why we use alternative investments, but in the future, we’ll do a deeper review of some of the funds.
We recently added a new team member. Craig Julien joined us in early June to help us with our systems, operations, and IT. Craig has a couple decades of experience in the IT industry, most recently with the accounting firm EFPR Group. Accordingly, Craig knows firsthand about data security and the importance of confidentiality in the financial industry. He’s already done a great job of tweaking our systems so they are more efficient and user friendly, and we’re looking forward to some enhancements that will make electronic account access easier for our clients as well.
Several years ago, I worked with an investment adviser who did not like to show investment performance to his clients. In fact, he never even calculated returns for his managed accounts. He really had no idea or interest in how he was performing, and certainly did not want his clients questioning him about their returns.
Back in 1970, Edwin Starr released a recording of the song “War.” The notable lyrics, “war/what is it good for/ absolutely nothing,” have been quoted often in the 40 years since. However, contrary to Starr’s lines, it turns out there may be one thing that war is indeed good for: the stock market.
Last year was a year of surprises. Sure the Chicago Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie announced that they are dissolving their marriage, but I’m talking about more interesting topics, like those that impacted the capital markets.
I come to praise active management, not to bury it. Active management has been much maligned recently, including in this column, because of the increasing dominance of index investing over active stock picking.
Indeed, according to estimates from Morningstar, actively managed U.S. stock funds have seen outflows of over $185 billion so far this year. By comparison, U.S. stock market index funds have attracted almost $125 billion in new assets. What’s driving this disparity?
The index fund recently celebrated its 40th birthday. The Vanguard 500 Index Fund, the very first indexed mutual fund, began on Aug. 31, 1976. That might not seem like such a big deal, but consider that during a typical 10-year period, roughly half of all stock mutual funds close their doors. Merely surviving for 40 years is quite a feat, but the fact that the Vanguard 500 Index Fund is now among the largest mutual funds in the world makes it all the more impressive.
In fact, of the 25 largest mutual funds, all but 10 are index funds. Of the 10 non-index funds on the list, only six are actively managed.