There's a war raging in tech land, but most investors probably don't know which side their tech fund is on.
On one side, you've got the "Four Horsemen" -- big bellwethers
-- which primarily rode the PC market to maturity.
On the other side, you've got "New Tech" companies with tighter Net ties and potentially fatter growth -- database software titan
, data storage kingpin
, server titan
While some might say this gives the Four Horsemen short shrift since they have been positioning themselves to capitalize on New Tech growth, growth fund managers have been
selling their Four Horsemen shares.
Since many fund companies are about as
open and friendly as a
clerk with a migraine when it comes to sharing portfolio information even on a lagged basis, you might not know which side to pull for.
And which side your tech fund manager picked has pretty much decided how you fared in tech stocks this year. As I noted in
The Daily Screen Monday morning, the leading tech funds over the last three years have typically stuffed themselves at the New Tech buffet. That's because the Four Horsemen are looking about as healthy as a retired Marlboro Man these days, down 20% on average, compared with a 28% gain on average for our quartet of New Tech stocks.
So, where is your money invested?
The short answer is that a significant portion of your money is probably riding on the New Tech shops, according to numbers run by
. Of the 105 tech funds that have shared their portfolios, 17 had more than 10% of their assets invested in the Four Horseman -- most of which are in Cisco, which, like Sun Microsystems, straddles the "old" and "new." But about one-third of these tech funds had over 10% of their money sunk into New Techs.
This isn't a call to dump funds with Old Tech exposure in favor of funds on the New Tech train. Rather it's an illustration of the fact that you need to look at where your tech fund is investing because it might not be what you bargained for.
Here are the 15 tech funds with the biggest bet on the Four Horseman -- age before beauty -- excluding funds whose portfolio reports were older than June 30.
While many of these funds have a significant stake in the Four Horsemen, Cisco is a bigger holding than the other three in 11 of these 15 funds. On average these funds are down 6.4% this year, compared with an 11.7% tumble for the average tech fund, according to Morningstar.
Here's a look at the 15 tech funds with the biggest bet on the five fresher horses. These funds -- some of which are on both lists -- are down less than 3% on average. (As I mentioned, there are
several funds with more than 10% of their assets in New Tech whose portfolio reports aren't older than June 30.)
As you can see, some funds -- such as the
Rydex Technology fund and the
E*Trade E-Commerce Index fund -- have sizable positions in each camp. That's probably fine for investors who simply want broad tech exposure. Keep in mind, however, that some funds will hold the Four Horsemen simply to stay somewhat close to their benchmarks where these bellwethers still play a major role.
But then there are funds such as the
Red Oak Technology Select, where its 18.6% New Tech allocation more than doubles its bet on the Four Horsemen. It's intriguing that most funds have a bigger New Tech bet. At least to a certain degree, this says that managers see more growth -- and no legal manila as in Microsoft's case -- among the New Techs. (On Oct. 18, we looked at growth managers' eroding interest in the Four Horsemen and their growing appetite for
New Tech fare.)
That said, it's not as if the Four Horsemen don't still have fans. Broker-sold
Alliance Technology, one of the largest tech funds with $12.5 billion in assets, had 9.8% of its assets in Old Tech on Sept. 30 -- twice its New Tech allocation. And older-line firms like Microsoft have hardly resigned themselves to plod along with PC sales; witness the resources behind
and Dell's push into New Tech hotbeds such as the Net and storage.
Interestingly, tech guru Kevin Landis had not one dollar of his flagship
Firsthand Technology Value fund sunk into either the Four Horsemen or our New Tech short list on July 31, according to the most recent data available on his firm's Web site.
The fund tops all others over the last five years with a 49.1% annualized return and at the end of July its biggest bets were on EMC rival
(8.8%), network chipmakers
Applied Micro Circuits
While these stocks weren't on our New Tech list, they're in the New Tech camp since they rely more heavily on networking and the Internet than PC sales. Given Landis' record for choosing the right stocks at the right time, this might shake even the most committed Old Tech bull.
If you're a tech fund investor -- no matter which side you're pulling for in this intra-tech dust-up -- you should call your fund company and/or check out their Web site to make sure your fund manager's sentiment matches yours.
Looking for Erin Sullivan
On Valentine's Day,
dropped the reins of the $22 billion
Fidelity Aggressive Growth fund to start her own hedge fund shop. In the 12 months prior to leaving Aggressive Growth, she rang up a stunning 114% return. Though she was just the first of several
young growth managers to leave the behemoth Boston fund firm this year, readers have frequently and consistently written and called
to ask where they might find Sullivan.
For all those folks, here's your answer:
Spheric Capital Management
in Boston. That's the name and location of Sullivan's new firm, according to
, a Web site that tracks institutional investors and their stock ownership. Before you call, keep in mind that she's running a hedge fund, called the
fund, which is quite different from a mutual fund. Unlike mutual funds, hedge funds are largely unregulated portfolios with million-dollar minimums, primarily for wealthy individuals and institutions.
Looking for Work
If you're an analyst or portfolio manager type and you're out of work,
is looking. On the Silicon Valley firm's Web site, their jobs page has a "portfolio analyst" listing wedged between "facilities manager" and "staff accountant." Good luck. If you're lacking credentials, check out former Firsthand manager Ken Kam's
Marketocracy Web site, where you can run a virtual fund -- the amateurs with the best track records after three years get to manage a real fund.
And if tech's dizzying lexicon has got you down, bookmark
whatis.com, a handy encyclopedia of tech terms.