This column originally published earlier today with incorrect charts.
was a great boxer because he hit hard
he could take a punch. Similarly, let's look at tech funds that did the best job of absorbing last year's fierce body blows.
Nasdaq Composite Index
peaked on March 10 last year and proceeded to drop a breathtaking 51% through the end of the year -- matching the drop of the average tech fund, according to
. Given the record billions of bucks that flowed into tech funds on the heels of 1999's steep gains, there are a lot of investors who are probably crawling around on the floor looking for those missing teeth and money.
A few weeks ago this column
pointed out that although there are more than 120 tech funds out there, it's tough to find one that isn't too young or too aggressive for most investors. Let's face it, more than 80 of these funds haven't been around for three years and 1999's delirious run-up made it tough to discern who was talented and who was lucky.
But last year's tech bloodbath can be a litmus test to help us separate the wheat from the chaff. Let's look at the 20 tech funds that held up best between March 10 and the end of last year, and then drill a bit deeper to see what stocks kept them afloat. And yes, we will look at the 10 tech funds that were hit hardest -- they're all Net funds smacked by the dot-com explosion, including the closed $7.5 billion
Munder NetNet fund, the biggest Net fund out there.
First, let's look at the survivors -- though that's a relative term, given last year's losses.
Unfortunately, you won't see this chart in any fund ads or brochures. Understandably, fund marketers usually dumb things down by shining bright lights on go-go time periods and fat gains, ignoring the fact that a modest loss last year is probably much more impressive than a triple-digit return in 1999 when gurus like
touted their fat portfolio gains.
Take the chart topping no-load
Potomac Internet/Short fund with a grain of salt. The fund essentially shorts the
Inter@ctiveWeek Internet Index
-- essentially profiting if the share prices of the index's stocks drop. A lousy market for pricey tech and Net stocks is the sweet spot for this fund, which probably doesn't belong in most fund investors' portfolios.
In fact, it's a good idea to look closely at these funds and how they managed to stay afloat. Some did it by not actually holding much of a tech stake, despite their tech-fund label.
Kinetics Internet New Paradigm fund, for instance, should probably be seen as a large-cap growth fund since it takes a broad view of Net and tech stocks. At the end of November, the most recent portfolio information on the fund's Web site, there weren't any tech stocks in its top 15 holdings. Instead, the fund has an eclectic portfolio with media shops like
, as well as financial stocks like insurer
Fidelity National Financial
. Its most recent portfolio report to Morningstar dates back to the end of April, but at that point only 10% of the fund's money was in tech stocks.
Some big-name fund shops managed to prove their mettle to some degree.
is widely regarded for churning out solid, if aggressive, tech-stock pickers and
is typically associated with solid, price-conscious growth investing. Each fund's manager took the reins just days before the Nasdaq peak and both managed to weather the storm pretty well on a relative basis.
Of Fidelity's numerous tech sector funds, only Fidelity Select Technology underperformed its peers, with a 53% loss after the Nasdaq peak.
Then there are several other high-profile tech managers who took some serious hits, but managed to beat their peers. This Pyrrhic victory shows that even if you're doing the right things, sector fund managers can't hide from selloffs in their sectors. Keep in mind that less downside risk is still an accomplishment, even if the results are ugly.
Firsthand Technology Value fund beats all funds over the past five years and it lost almost 43%. This is a steep loss, but is comfortably ahead of the sagging pack. As I said earlier this week, Landis' ability to ride a hot market and still stay ahead in a tough one deserves some attention. Consider that in 1999 he rang up a 190% return and only lost 10% over all of last year, compared with more than 30% for his average peer.
And James Oelschlager and Douglas MacKay, the highly regarded managers of the
Red Oak Technology Select fund, managed to stay ahead of the pack though they lost nearly 43%, too.
The same might not be said for Cathy Baker and 1999 Morningstar Manager of the Year Jim Callinan, who run the
RS Internet Age fund. The young fund lost nearly 65% in after the Nasdaq peak and its 46.3% loss over the past 12 months trails more than 80% of its tech peers. To be fair, Callinan's main charge,
RS Emerging Growth, still sports a 37.6% annualized gain over the past three years, which beats more than 90% of its mid-cap growth peers.
What stocks kept these tech funds afloat? We tossed these 20 portfolios in a pot and came up with a list of their cumulative top-10 holdings, which is skewed mainly toward tech leaders.
Similar screens of sizzling tech and growth funds often turned up hot IPOs and the likes of
-- fast-growing networking shops. But here we find mostly bigger brand names. We have networking titan
, server giant
, battered Net blue-chip
and software behemoths
OK, it's ghoul time. Here are the 10 tech funds hit hardest after the Nasdaq's peak last year. Not surprisingly it's full of Net funds -- where could they hide when the dot-com bubble popped? You're probably not surprised to see the
fund, which ranked dead last among all funds in 2000 with a 79% loss. And the
Amerindo Technology fund's racy streak makes steep rises and drops the norm.
It would be easy to write these off as fringe funds, but given the size of the Munder NetNet fund (though the closed fund is probably smaller than the $7.5 billion heft it carried on Sept. 30), there are probably a lot of investors out there scratching their heads.
If you own one of these funds, you might ask yourself if a Net fund really makes sense today and whether broader growth funds don't make more sense for your portfolio. No matter what you think, it's time for you to use last year's pain to figure out how much tech you really want to own in your portfolio, if you haven't already.
As originally published, this story contained an error. Please see
Corrections and Clarifications.
Fund Junkie runs every Monday and Wednesday, as well as occasional dispatches. 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. Editorial Assistant Dan Bernstein contributed to this article.