Today, the case for overweighting tech in your portfolio is looking as strong as the case for walking through hell in a gasoline suit.
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Yes, the situation is so dire that scribblers like myself are borrowing phrases from
Charlie Hustle. The "can't miss" tech sector's continuing losses are jaw-dropping. They're so painful that no doubt many will say the sector must be bottoming. But before entertaining the idea of raising your tech exposure, keep in mind that thanks to the mercurial sector's stunning run in the late 1990s, it's already a big part of a diversified portfolio. Consider this: At one time within the past decade, tech was a mere 2.7% of the
. Long story short, tech stocks and the formerly top-selling funds that focus on them are taking a beating of historic proportions and matching the S&P 500's tech stake is hardly a modest helping of the ravaged sector.
Ravaged, indeed. The average tech fund fell more than 17% last month, after falling nearly 28% in February. The two months are among the tech-fund category's five worst in the past 20 years, according to
. In fact, six of the category's 10 worst months since 1981 have come in the past year.
Over the past year, the tech-laden
is down more than 63.4% and the average tech fund has fallen a breathtaking 63%. Let's think about this in more realistic terms. If you'd invested $10,000 at the end of last February in the $9.7 billion
T. Rowe Price Science & Technology fund, the nation's biggest tech fund, it would be down to about $5,440 a year later, according to Morningstar.
Less Than Half the Funds They Used to Be
Source: Morningstar. Returns through April 3.
Almost 20 tech funds have already lost more than half their value so far this year. In fact, a look at the category's leaders just confirms how dreary things are. Turns out the only way to make money was to either bet against the tech stocks or to simply invest elsewhere, contrary to having a tech-fund label.
For instance, the chart-topping
fund, up 184% over the past 12 months, sells Net stocks short, essentially profiting when their share prices fall. Then there's the
Kinetics Internet Emerging Growth,
Kinetics Internet and
Kinetics Internet Infrastructure funds, which all had less than half their money in "tech" stocks, according to their most recent portfolio report to Morningstar. In fact, the only traditional tech fund that's holding up well is the broker-sold
Seligman Communications & Information fund, which is down 15.5% this year and is run by veteran manager Paul Wick.
At the bottom of the splintered tech-fund barrel, we find funds like
Berkshire Technology and
Van Wagoner Technology with bets on Net-centric stocks that have taken a particularly brutal beating this year like
Applied Micro Circuits
(down 83.3%) and
This kind of drubbing is so harsh that no doubt many are coming around to the "it can't get much worse" or "buy on the dips" mantras. This is instinctive. After all, the average tech fund's loss last year snapped a 15-year streak of annual gains. It does, however, ignore the fact that the average growth fund's some 40% stake in tech stocks is already about double the sectors' weighting in the S&P 500. Because growth funds and tech funds took in record billions during the past two years, nary an investor is tech-starved.
And even if you've nobly built a diversified portfolio, with an S&P 500-tracking index fund, you're still sitting with a lot of tech exposure. Consider that due to the sector's consistent gains in the 1990s, its weighting in the
Vanguard 500 Index fund has risen from 2.7% at the end of 1992 to more than 25% at the end of January.
The sector's sagging performance is whittling it down now. Tech stocks currently make up about 18% of the index, according to S&P's Web site. That still sounds like a lot, or at least enough, doesn't it?
Fund Junkie runs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 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
firstname.lastname@example.org, but he cannot give specific financial advice.