There's every flavor of tech fund out there today, including some that don't rise with tech stocks.
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Tech stocks' recent rally might be more driven by crossed fingers than conviction, but it does give you a chance to see if your tech fund actually owns tech stocks. This week's I Own What?! zeroes in on tech funds that have been dusted by their peers in the past month because they simply don't own many tech stocks.
The upshot is that sometimes a fund's performance tells you more than its name about where it invests your money, particularly when it comes to Internet funds.
Thanks to a tech rally without a cause, the average tech fund is up some 17% over the past 30 days, according to Chicago fund tracker Morningstar. We turned up six, excluding trading funds designed to short tech stocks, that didn't go up half that much. The reason: They didn't own tech stocks.
Kinetics Funds offers four tech funds, and they all made our list:
Kinetics Internet Infrastructure,
Kinetics Internet Global Growth,
Kinetics Internet Emerging Growth and
Kinetics Internet. Each proves that the definition of "Internet" is pretty elastic. On average they had about 21% of their money in tech stocks, according to their most recent portfolio report to Morningstar.
Unfortunately, those reports are ancient, dating back to March 31. But two things point to the funds' still having only modest tech exposure. One is their performance over the past month, when they rose just 4.4% on average. Also, the firm has nearly all of its money in its $313 million flagship Kinetics Internet fund. On Sept. 30, Kinetics had just 9% of its firmwide stock portfolio in tech stocks, according to LionShares.com, which tracks institutional stock ownership.
Now, having a tech-light portfolio isn't necessarily a bad thing. Thanks to the tech sector's profound tumble over the past 20 months, the Kinetics Internet fund tops more than 90% of its peers over the past one, three and five years, according to Morningstar.
And the tech funds that have rocketed past their peers over the past month are doing so primarily because they're among the riskiest out there; they fell hardest, so they've bounced highest. Five of the top six tech funds over the past 30 days, again excluding oddball trading funds that use derivatives to make titanic bets on the sector, are down more than 62% over the past year. The list includes the
Van Wagoner Technology fund, which is down 73% over the past year.
Tech Tide Turning
Source: Morningstar. Returns through Nov. 19.
The bottom line for investors is that you should think long and hard before you pick a fund on either list. A portfolio of the bottom six funds would have big exposure to nontech stocks such as
. Don't you buy a tech fund to own tech stocks?
The top six funds, on the other hand, might be riskier than you want with big bets on companies like
. The company's shares are down 44% this year and still trade at a 64 forward
price-to-earnings ratio, more than double the
Instead of getting too little tech exposure or pinning your hopes on dicey dot-coms, we suggest you check out steadier types such as the
Dresdner RCM Global Technology fund. We
added it to our Ima Winner Fund Club back in August for its tenured management team, diversified approach and solid returns.
The past five years have been a roller coaster, but co-managers Walter Price and Huachen Chen have rung up a 23.5% annualized gain over that stretch. And they provide an example of a tech fund that topped other tech funds while still owning tech stocks.
What a concept.
Ian McDonald writes daily for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He invites you to send your feedback to
email@example.com, but he cannot give specific financial advice.