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That mob of folks holding their breath for a big tech rebound in the fourth quarter? Fidelity's growth-fund managers aren't among its blue-faced ranks.
Most of the Boston fund behemoth's growth specialists weren't adding to their funds' tech stakes in September, according to Fidelity's October Mutual Fund Guide, released Tuesday. Growth managers and analysts at the firm, the nation's largest fund shop with more than $520 billion in its retail stock and bond funds, have a reputation for accurately reading the mercurial tech sector's undulations.
Since the tech-laden
hit a low on Sept. 21 and is down 68% since its peak last year, some might expect Fido's pros to be scooping tech shares from Wall Street's dustbin. The firm's managers don't talk to the press, but their reluctance to buy tech in this environment augurs for an underwhelming fourth quarter for the Nasdaq.
"Despite all of September's head fakes, the majority of Fidelity growth-fund managers stayed bearish on technology across the board," says Jim Lowell, editor of the independent
newsletter. "With few exceptions, no one is thinking technology is going to drive
their fund's performance over the next two to three months. That's a big difference from the past 10 years."
The average large-cap growth fund still has 30.5% of its money in tech stocks, according to Chicago fund tracker Morningstar. But four of Fidelity's five largest growth funds have a smaller tech stake. The lowest is the
Fidelity Contrafund's 2.8%, down from 24.7% a year earlier and well below the
14% tech stake. At the other end of the spectrum is the
Fidelity OTC fund with a 58.2% tech bet. That said, the OTC fund is probably better classified as a tech fund because its benchmark is the Nasdaq Composite. A year ago the fund had about 75% of its money in tech stocks.
"The vast majority of Fidelity growth-fund managers have been repositioning their portfolios toward other areas, like health care and financial companies," says Lowell. "That tells you where they think this market is going. They think managers betting on tech to bail them out are betting on the wrong horse."
Given the tech sector's fall in September, fund's tech stakes have dipped due to performance, but the figures released Tuesday indicate a broadening palette.
Fidelity Growth Company fund manager Steven Wymer, for instance, has let
slip out of his fund's top 10 since June 30.
On Sept. 30, his top three holdings were
. A month earlier, tech made up 33.5% of the portfolio, and a year ago, tech stocks were a 41% position. Wymer's top sector now is health care, which makes up 27.3% of the fund.
A cautious tech stance isn't limited to Fido's growth pros, however. Of the 31 stock funds that didn't track an index or focus on a sector, only four boosted their tech stake in September. Bob Stansky, manager of the giant and shuttered $71.7 billion
Fidelity Magellan fund, let the fund's tech position fall from 13% to a little more than 11% in September. That's below the S&P 500's 14% tech position and far below the fund's 29% tech bet at this time last year.
John Muresianu, manager of the
Fidelity Fifty fund, is probably the firm's biggest tech bear. After jamming almost all of the $382 million fund into tech stocks in early 1999, he sold the fund's tech holdings early last year. He still holds exactly zero tech stocks.
As you might imagine, those aggressive moves have worked out well. The fund's 15.2% annualized return over the past three years tops 98% of its large-cap blend peers and dusts the S&P 500 by more than a dozen percentage points, according to Morningstar.
Of course, not all managers are light on tech. Charles Mangum, manager of the
Fidelity Dividend Growth fund, raised the fund's tech stake from 16.9% to 17.2%. That said, tech wasn't his favorite sector. At the end of September he had just less than 20% in each of the financial and health care sectors.
Before you shrug off these folks' reluctance to gorge themselves at the tech buffet, consider that Fidelity's diversified U.S. stock funds had fallen only 13.7% on average in the 12 months prior to September's moves, according to Morningstar. That beat the S&P 500 by more than 10 percentage points. And over the three years ending Sept. 1, a tumultuous stretch to be sure, their 11.4% annualized gain beat the benchmark by more than 4 percentage points.
The bottom line: Think twice before you sink more money into tech, because some of the biggest and smartest sharks in Wall Street's pool aren't doing it.
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.