Morning Briefing: Is 2017 the year of the active fund manager?

2013-16 was awful for stock pickers but 2017 could show some very different results

Morning Briefing: Is 2017 the year of the active fund manager?
Steve Randall
Active fund managers are enjoying the good times as correlations between Wall Street’s S&P500 and its stocks are at one of the lowest levels since 2004.

The FT reports that a year ago there was a 60% correlation but that has slipped to just 18% according to estimates from Morgan Stanley.

A report from global wealth management firm AB Bernstein says that correlations among stocks have been “extremely elevated” since 2008 but moves by the Federal Reserve to normalize short-term interest rates has led to a noticeable decline which brings correlations more in line with the pre-2008 long-term average.

Bernstein’s analysis also shows a notable increase in active managers outperforming the benchmark (54%) in the first six months of 2017 compared with the five-year average (34%).

Conditions have favoured active fund managers due to rising stocks and low volatility following tough times in the past few years.

The low-correlation environment has meant an easing of outflows from mutual funds into ETFs, although it has not reversed the recent growth trend for passive investments.