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FTSE down 10% since record high but it’s not all bad news for investors

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It’s hard to believe that just 12 months ago the FTSE 100 was breaking new ground. In fact, today marks the anniversary of the UK’s headline index reaching its record closing level of 7,103.

But as any market disciple will know, the figures one year on aren’t so encouraging. The FTSE 100 has lost a fifth of its value from peak to trough as commodity and banking stocks, which make up a significant part of the index, have plummeted.

However, it’s not all bad news. One third of FTSE 100 companies have seen their share price rise over the last year. The sheer scale of price falls in some of the biggest companies have contributed to the index standing 10% shy of its peak.

Another positive is active fund managers, particularly those investing in smaller companies, have largely sidestepped the worst of the problems encountered by banking and commodity companies since last April.

“As a result many fund investors have probably done better than they might expect over the last year,” says Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

According to figures from Hargreaves, 36% of UK funds have made a positive return over the last year, with 9 out of 10 funds beating the FTSE 100 index.

Smaller companies funds have done particularly well, with the average fund in this sector returning 5.3% over the last year.

“The share prices of smaller companies are of course governed by risk appetite in the market, but success or failure is often more influenced by what’s going on in the business rather than the wider economy, in other words by micro considerations rather than the macro picture,” says Khalaf.

“This is also an area where active managers can really bring an edge to bear by conducting in-house research and picking out those companies whose prospects the wider market is yet to appreciate.

“All in all it’s been a good year for active fund managers. Their outperformance can be attributed to two key factors; their propensity to avoid mega-caps in favour of more modestly-sized companies, and their underweight to the oil and gas, mining and banking sectors.”

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