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Today's Market Drop is Your Fault

The financial press will cook up dozens of reasons why the market fell so hard, so fast today (the Dow was down over 500 points or over 4% before finding some footing). Most will point toward China and tell you that nothing has changed since yesterday, stay the course. But something has changed. High-risk assets are finally done leading the market. The music has stopped, and investors are looking for chairs.

Downplaying risk and focusing exclusively on upside is why fund investors have sunk billions into higher-risk fund categories like emerging markets, Asia, Latin America, and high-yield bonds. It’s why an ETF like iShares FTSE/Xinhua China (FXI) has brought in billions in recent months.

As of 1:17 p.m. today, a China fund, Oberweis China Opportunities Fund (OBCHX), is the fourth most viewed fund page (out of more than 20,000) on MAXfunds.com. This tells you more about the causes of today’s drop than all the financial analysis you’ll read about the rest of the week.

Fund investors have a bad habit of getting most excited about a certain sector or fund category shortly before in sinks. The last time we saw big fund inflows was early in 2006, and in the following months the U.S. stock market slipped, and emerging markets flat out tanked –though both came back later in the year.

This year fund investors have already put around $40 billion into stock funds – most of it into international funds, and a lot of that into emerging markets.

Nobody knows where the market is going in the short run, but it is likely that all the fund categories attracting the most money early this year will perform the worst in coming months. Maybe this isn’t the end of the great high risk asset bull market, but today’s action shows investors the risk of adding new money late in the game.

Seven Steps to a Better Portfolio

Kiplinger.com's How to Choose Winning Funds lists seven 'simple steps' to building a winning fund portfolio without the help of a broker:

  1. Determine your objective
  2. Home in on a specific category
  3. Watch your costs
  4. Study past performance
  5. Consider risk
  6. Size up the fund
  7. Know who's at the helm

LINK

Any similarity to our own Seven Golden Rules of Mutual fund Investing is purely coincidental:

  1. No Loads!
  2. Don't Overestimate Past Performance Figures
  3. No Fat Funds
  4. The Younger the Better
  5. Watch Expenses
  6. Check Performance Relative To Class
  7. Know The Fund's Risk Level

Fidelity is Having A Bad Year

02/19/07 - Fidelity

A tough year at Fidelity has Kiplinger.com's Steven Goldberg wondering if the overhaul of stockpicking operations that the mutual fund giant undertook a year and a half ago might need some serious tweaking.

I don't think the wheels are falling off at Fidelity. But plainly some mid-course corrections are in order for the huge revamping of the stockpicking operation that Fidelity launched 18 months ago. Someone high up at Fidelity may -- or may not -- agree. Stephen Jonas, who headed that restructuring, retired at the end of January. Bob Reynolds, Fidelity's chief operating officer, says Jonas, 53, wanted to spend more time with his family and that he and Jonas "came to a mutual agreement that this was a good jumping off point. Performance had nothing to do with it." Maybe so.

Longer-term performance at Fidelity hasn't been awful, but those of us old enough to remember when Peter Lynch turned Fidelity Magellan into the most famous fund in the land do long for the good old days. Over the past three, five and ten years, Fidelity's average U.S. diversified fund ranks above average -- in the 40th to 42nd percentile over each period. The trend at Fidelity's foreign funds has been disturbing. Over the past ten years, they're in the top 32% of diversified overseas funds. Over the past five years, they're in the top 40%. But over the past three years, they rank in the 73rd percentile (or the bottom 27%)."

Despite the rough patch, we still include several Fidelity funds in our MAXadvisor Powerfund Portfolios' Our Favorite Funds report. Fidelity Small Cap Growth (FCPGX) makes the cut in the small cap growth category. Fidelity Europe Capital (FECAX), Fidelity Southeast Asia (FSEAX), Fidelity Global Balanced (FGBLX), and Fidelity Spartan International (FSIIX) also get gold stars.