While Asian equities have risen to start 2019, the region’s funds may not be doing as well.
Asian mutual funds have lagged behind their benchmarks due to conservative positioning, as well as concentrations in sectors and geographies that haven’t done as well to start this year, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analysts led by Sunil Koul wrote in a Feb. 18 note with a quarterly update of regional fund flows and positioning.
“The defensively positioned Asian funds (given their large overweights in South Asian markets and consumer sectors) have lagged in the cyclical-led recovery rally,” the analysts wrote. “Country and sector returns year-to-date have been inversely correlated with the starting positioning of the Asian and EM mutual funds which suggests funds’ starting allocations were at odds with the market rally.”
The MSCI Asia Pacific ex-Japan Index and MSCI Emerging Markets Index are both up about 9 percent this year so far, with consumer discretionary, information-technology and energy sectors performing best. Consumer staples and health-care stocks have been the worst. The equity rally hasn’t been confined to those indexes, either; the MSCI All-Country World Index is up 10 percent year-to-date.
And outperformer China is a big underweight in the funds, while laggard India is a large overweight, Goldman said. On an individual-equity basis, mutual funds’ most overweight stocks have underperformed the most underweight by 5 percentage points so far this year, the analysts said.
Fewer than half of the top 100 Asian funds and about 60 percent of the top 200 emerging-market mutual funds in Goldman’s sample have outperformed year to date, versus a historical average of 70 percent, the firm said.
Mutual funds’ most overweight positions in Asian stocks are HDFC Bank Ltd., Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd. and Housing Development Finance Corp., according to Goldman. The most underweight are Tencent Holdings Ltd., Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Samsung Electronics Co.