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Some Fund Managers Are Better Off Ignored

Selena Maranjian
July 20, 2010

Uh-oh. Mutual fund managers have gotten considerably more pessimistic about the market. We shouldn't let that alarm us, though, because it's not very useful information. Many fund managers are not the geniuses you might think they are. And even if they're right, it's still not the worst news.

Fund managers' growing bearishness was reflected in a recent Bank of America Merrill Lynch survey. It found that a net 12% of managers surveyed expected the world's economy to get worse over the coming year, which is markedly more pessimistic than last month, when the score was a positive 24% in favor of the economy strengthening.

Here's why you shouldn't fret about it too much, though: Just as the average American isn't the best assessor of our economic condition, neither are fund managers. They're not all geniuses. Check out how uninspiring some funds are. The two examples below are from a Forbes list of the worst-performing funds of the past decade.

  • The First American MidCap Select A (FATAX) fund has underperformed its mid-cap benchmark over the past three, five, and 10 years. Its managers say they look for companies with strong or improving business fundamentals and attractive valuations. Yet some of the stocks those managers have selected don't seem to fit that bill. There's Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF  ) , which has been lavishly compensating its CEO while revenue has shrunk, and which seems, at best, just fairly valued these days. It also has held arguably overvalued shares of Office Depot (NYSE: ODP