Analysis: Apple's swoon exposes risk lurking in mutual funds

Fri Dec 21, 2012 12:37pm EST
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By David K. Randall

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The nearly 28 percent decline in shares of Apple Inc since mid-September isn't just painful to individual shareholders. It's also being felt by investors who chased hot mutual funds that loaded up on Apple as the stock raced to a record $705 per share.

Apple makes up 10 percent or more of assets in 117 out of the 1,119 funds that own its shares, according to data from Lipper, a Thomson Reuters company. Those big stakes have contributed positively to each fund's annual performance to date, with Apple still up about 32 percent for the year. It was trading at $527.73 soon after the opening on Friday.

But that year-to-date outcome may not accurately reflect the performance of the funds for individual investors. All told, approximately $4.5 billion has been added to funds with overweight stakes in Apple this year, according to Morningstar data. The majority of these dollars were invested after March and after Apple first exceeded $600 per share - meaning many investors have been riding down with the decline.

The $302 million Matthew 25 fund, for instance, holds 17.4 percent of its assets in Apple, according to Lipper. The fund's 31.9 percent gain through Thursday makes it one of the top performing funds for the year.

Most of its Apple shares were bought years ago at a bargain basement price of about $125 per share. But $158.9 million of the fund's assets - or 53 percent - were invested after the end of March, when Apple was trading near $615 per share, according to Morningstar data.

For those investors that bought after March, all that concentration in Apple hasn't led to a stellar gain but rather a drag on the portfolio. Someone who invested in Matthew 25 in early April has seen the value of the fund's Apple stake fall about 19 percent, while someone who invested at the beginning of September has watched that outsized Apple stake drop 27.2 percent.

In turn, the majority of the fund's investors have reaped a much more modest performance than its year-end numbers suggest. Since the end of March, the fund has gained 6.7 percent, according to Morningstar data, far less than its 31 percent year-to-date gain and about two percentage points more than the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 index.

Since, September the fund is down nearly 3 percent through Thursday's close, compared with a 1.1 percent decline in the S&P 500 in that period.   Continued...

Attendees sit in front of an Apple logo during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference 2012 in San Francisco, California June 11, 2012. REUTERS/Stephen Lam