As tech stocks folded in September, most
stock fund managers weren't buying. In fact, some were selling.
That's the news from the firm's latest
Mutual Fund Guide
, released Tuesday, which lists each fund's top holdings and sector weightings through the end of September. Fidelity stock pickers are traditionally known for their skill in picking hot tech stocks, but in August and September many Fido managers either stood pat or sold some tech stocks. That left many Fido funds with smaller tech weightings because of market performance and/or selling than they had at the end of August -- the firm's last portfolio report.
While Fidelity managers -- who don't talk stocks with the media -- might be buying tech today, their uncharacteristic reticence in recent weeks is hardly an encouraging sign for the beleaguered sector. When the nation's biggest fund family lightens its load in the sector that has driven the bull market of the past decade, it raises concerns about techs' ability to rebound.
Fund and market watchers alike closely scrutinize Fidelity fund managers' moves. With more than $600 billion in the firm's stock and bond funds, their favorite picks tend to go up and their castaways tend to fare poorly. The firm's September
showed that the firm's managers upped their cash and financial-stock positions, reducing their exposure to the tech sector.
"When you look at all Fidelity's growth and growth-and-income funds, the majority are underweight in the tech sector," says Jim Lowell, editor of the independent newsletter,
. "What these numbers tell me is that Fidelity was fairly bearish toward the tech sector. We're often told that we ought to be buying while blood is running in the streets, but I think this shows Fidelity is putting on its hip boots and waiting for more blood. They weren't seduced by the September selloff."
Indeed, of the 34 nonindexed stock funds in the guide, 27 dropped their tech stake from the end of August. More than half had a lower tech weighting than their benchmark, the yardstick for their performance that differs from fund to fund. Shareholders should probably cheer the moves since the tech-laden
Nasdaq Composite, down 19.1% on the year, dropped more than 12% in September.
Among the funds with a lower tech weighting than their benchmarks is Fidelity's
Magellan fund, the second-largest fund in the nation, run by Bob Stansky. In September the fund's tech weighting dropped from 33.8% to 29.2%, lower than the 29.7% stake that tech stocks make up in
Magellan is the best-known Fido fund. It's where manager-turned-pitchman Peter Lynch made his name -- and more interesting than the tech-stock stake's dip is Stansky's rotation within the sector. Old-guard tech titans
fell out of the top 10, replaced by other tech stocks.
"Stansky hasn't really sold much, but he's changed his holdings. Intel and Microsoft are no longer in his top 10. As those two stocks fell out,
came in. Maybe it's the next generation replacing the old guard," says Lowell.
Fidelity Growth Company manager Steven Wymer let tech tumble from a 46.2% weighting in August to 41.9% in September. That's well below the 54.3% tech stake in the fund's benchmark, the Russell 3000 Growth Index.
Fidelity Mid-Cap Stock's David Felman has dropped his fund's tech weighting from 31.3% on June 30 to 16.3% on Sept. 30. The fund is Fidelity's top performer since Jan. 1, up 25.4%.
Fidelity Fifty fund's John Muresianu continues to keep tech off his fund's menu. On March 31 nearly 30% of the fund was in tech stocks, but Muresianu dumped the tech stake by June 30, and if tech is in his fund now, it represents less than 0.5% of its assets, according to the
. The fund is down 12.2%, trailing 96% of its large-cap blend peers, according to
Lowell points to Fergus Shiel as one of Fidelity's biggest tech bulls. In his
Retirement Growth fund, tech has fallen from a 58% weighting on June 30 to 37% on Sept. 30. That's above the S&P 500's 29.7% position but is still a steep tumble.
The upshot for shareholders of Fidelity funds is that their funds are probably a bit less techy than they've been in the past. For the market, particularly for those investors holding tech stocks, the development raises a flag.
"When you look at turnover and the weightings Fidelity managers give stocks, there isn't usually much consensus. So when you see an across-the-board unwillingness to buy tech, it's unusual," says Lowell. "I think it shows more than a cautious stance, but a fairly bearish stance on tech."
That said, historically Fidelity managers have been buyers of tech in October when mutual fund managers' tax-loss selling and slowing fund flows tend to slow the market down. Time will tell if Fido managers are buyers of the tech stocks they sold just a few weeks ago.