Stocks were mostly higher heading into the Thanksgiving holiday, as investors were able to overcome some early nervousness to claw back ground from losses at the beginning of the session. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) still fell slightly on the day, but both the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) and Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) managed to post modest gains.

Index

Daily Percentage Change

Daily Point Change

Dow

(0.03%)

(9)

S&P 500

+0.23%

+11

Nasdaq

+0.44%

+70

Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

The day's moves continued the overall strong performance from the stock market in 2021. Yet even though major indexes are up substantially so far this year, Cathie Wood hasn't been as fortunate. Her ARK Invest exchange-traded funds haven't matched the market's performance in 2021, and some wonder if the revered manager has lost her touch. We'll look more closely at that question below.

Person looking at charts and graphs on laptop and smartphone.

Image source: Getty Images.

A down year for ARK Innovation

It's been a tough year to be a Cathie Wood investor. For the most part, many of the high-growth stocks that played prominent roles in the ARK Innovation ETF (NYSEMKT:ARKK) and other Wood-led ETFs topped out early in the year. That's left investors slowly but steadily losing ground throughout much of 2021, with ARK Innovation falling about 15% year to date.

However, a closer look at the stocks involved shows that Wood's performance has been much more mixed. Stocks like Tesla and Shopify have continued to gain ground for ARK Innovation, helping to offset losses elsewhere. Yet poor performance from telehealth pioneer Teladoc Health and Zoom Video Communications has weighed on total returns, and pullbacks in other stocks that were high-flyers earlier in the year haven't helped.

Mixed performance elsewhere

Moreover, Wood's other funds show a much more varied track record. The biggest losses have come for the ARK Genomic Revolution ETF (NYSEMKT:ARKG), which is down more than 30% for the year as four of its top five holdings have fallen from year-ago levels.

Conversely, declines for ARK Invest's ETFs in the fintech and next-generation internet field are down just a few percent for the year. And the autonomous technology and robotics fund has actually gained ground, albeit trailing the broader market's return year to date.

Don't count Cathie Wood out

The anti-Wood sentiment has gotten so prominent that a new exchange-traded fund has come out that runs explicitly counter to her strategy. Tuttle Capital Short Innovation ETF just came out in early November, with the express goal of shorting the stocks that Wood owns in ARK Innovation.

Yet Wood is ready to double down on her picks. Indeed, a recent suggestion from the ARK Invest leader  would combine her pro-innovation strategy with short-selling of major stocks in benchmarks like the S&P 500. That could boost returns, albeit at the price of even higher potential volatility in performance. Even Wood acknowledges the risks, having referred to the strategy in an interview on CNBC as "ARK on steroids."

Most importantly, focusing on 2021's performance unfairly leaves out Wood's amazing gains in 2020, which have led to three-year returns on ARK funds ranging from 134% to 195%. A return to that pace of growth might take a while, but Wood seems optimistic that her stock picks have the potential to generate strong gains for shareholders with the patience and discipline to stick with them.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.