Fund winners and losers in January 2021

by Hannah Smith from interactive investor |

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A US fund that bought GameStop in December and sold its position last week was the best-performing fund in January. 

With November’s vaccine roll-outs and December’s Brexit trade deal characterising the end of 2020, the first month of 2021 has proved much less eventful, asides from amateur investors using Reddit trying to punish hedge funds and move the price of silver. Against this backdrop, how have retail funds been performing?

Topping the performance tables in January were a mix of US, China and broader Asian equity funds. Tyndall North American was the winner, returning more than 14% during the first month of the year, while GAM MultiStock China Evolution came in second with an 11% return. Its sister fund, GAM MultiStock Asia Focus Equity, also just made it in to the top 10. Elsewhere in the list was a US smaller companies fund from Premier Miton, and China funds from Invesco, Baillie Gifford and Guinness.

Top 10 funds in January 2021

Fund

Return (%)

Tyndall North American

14.36

GAM MultiStock China Evolution

11.49

Nikko AM ARK Disruptive Innovation

10.06

Premier Miton US Smaller Companies

9.72

TT Emerging Markets Unconstrained

9.54

Invesco China Equity

9.28

Guinness Best of Asia

8.91

Baillie Gifford China

8.88

Guinness Best of China

8.66

GAM MultiStock Asia Focus Equity

8.55

Source: FE Analytics. Table returns 31 December 2020 to 30 January 2021.

Tyndall North American’s “extraordinary performance” saw it beat the S&P 500 by 15% in a single month, says Ben Yearsley, investment director at Shore Financial Planning, who supplied the figures. He says: “Luck as well as judgement often plays its part in fund management - the luck is often down to timing, which was definitely in the fund manager’s favour in January. Fund manager Felix Wintle bought GameStop (NYSE:GME) in December as a three-year turnaround story and sold it last week more than achieving his price target without any need for the business to turn around.”

Yearsley continues: “Tyndall North American, as well as Premier Miton US Smaller Companies, were the outliers last month with the top 10 dominated by China, Asia, and emerging markets. China was one of the few economies to grow in 2020, and is predicted to grow by over 8% this year. Many Asian countries, both developed and emerging, have had a ‘good’ Covid-19 response and markets are possibly benefiting now.”

Funds that struggled in January included precious metals and gold funds from Smith & Williamson, Ruffer, Baker Steel and BlackRock. However, it was LF Odey Absolute Return that saw the biggest fall over the month, down nearly 13%. “At the foot of the table, gold and Latin American funds were the dominant themes,” notes Yearsley. “Gold is the odd one, as normally in crisis times it does well, but is bitcoin taking the safety crown, or are there concerns about real rates rising?”

Bottom 10 funds in January 2021

Fund

Return (%)

LF Odey Absolute Return

-12.54

Smith & Williamson Global Gold & Resources

-8.56

HSBC GIF Brazil Equity

-8.04

DMS Charteris Gold and Precious Metals

-8.03

Wellington Fin Tech fund

-8.01

LF Ruffer Gold

-7.77

ES Baker Steel Gold & Precious Metals

-7.7

MFS Meridian Latin American Equity

-6.64

Quilter Precious Metals Equity

-6.55

BlackRock Gold and General 

-6.52

Source: FE Analytics. Table returns 31 December 2020 to 30 January 2021.

Investment trust winners and losers

In the investment trust space, there was no common theme to pick out among the best performers over the month, with real estate, micro caps and private equity all featuring. “In the investment trust world, often an esoteric trust tops the tables,” notes Yearsley. “This month is not unusual in that respect, with Baillie Gifford’s Schiehallion (LSE:MNTN) fund topping the charts. As a reminder, this trust is tightly held by a handful of institutions and is used by Baillie Gifford as a vehicle to hold unquoted stocks.”

Top five investment trust performers in January 2021

Investment Trust

Return (%)

Baillie Gifford Schiehallion (LSE:MNTN)

27.53

RTW Venture (LSE:RTW)

18.61

Miton UK Microcap (LSE:MINI)

16.67

BMO Real Estate Investments (LSE:BREI) 

16.39

RDLZ Realisation

15.04

Source: FE Analytics. Table returns 31 December 2020 to 30 January 2021. Fund sectors exclude money market funds and investment trusts exclude VCTs.

At the fund sector level, China/Greater China was the top performer for January, up 6%, while Asia Pacific ex Japan was second best, and North American Smaller Companies completed the top three.

Top five fund sectors in January 2021

Fund sector

Return (%)

China / Greater China

6.2

Asia Pacific ex Japan

3.4

North American Smaller Companies

3.39

Global Emerging Markets

2.95

Technology & Telecommunications

2.12

Source: FE Analytics. Table returns 31 December 2020 to 30 January 2021. Fund sectors exclude money market funds and investment trusts exclude VCTs.

The worst-performing sectors in January were all down between 1.5% and 2.8%, with UK Index Linked Gilts suffering the worst month, followed by Global EM Bonds Local Currency. Europe ex UK, UK Gilts and Japan completed the bottom five laggards.

Bottom five fund sectors in January 2021 

Fund sector

Return (%)

UK Index Linked Gilts

-2.81

Global EM Bonds Local Currency

-1.99

Europe ex UK

-1.8

UK Gilts

-1.75

Japan

-1.5

Source: FE Analytics. Table returns 31 December 2020 to 30 January 2021. Fund sectors exclude money market funds and investment trusts exclude VCTs.

These articles are provided for information purposes only. Occasionally, an opinion about whether to buy or sell a specific investment may be provided by third parties. The content is not intended to be a personal recommendation to buy or sell any financial instrument or product, or to adopt any investment strategy as it is not provided based on an assessment of your investing knowledge and experience, your financial situation or your investment objectives. The value of your investments, and the income derived from them, may go down as well as up. You may not get back all the money that you invest. The investments referred to in this article may not be suitable for all investors, and if in doubt, an investor should seek advice from a qualified investment adviser.

Full performance can be found on the company or index summary page on the interactive investor website. Simply click on the company's or index name highlighted in the article.

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