‘50 cent’ gold fund tops European performance charts

A mutual fund investing in gold from London-based asset manager Ruffer has topped the list of the best-performing investment products in Europe this year, benefiting from a rise in the precious metal driven by fears over the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Ruffer Gold fund returned almost 30 per cent in the four months until the end of April, as markets plummeted over fears of the impact of Covid-19.

Ruffer, which gained fame in recent years after being dubbed “50 cent” for purchasing cheap protection against sharp falls in stock prices, declined to comment.

According to data from Morningstar, several other precious metal products from BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, also appear in the top performers, as investors turned to the metal that traditionally acts as a haven in times of market stress.

Jason Hollands, managing director for business development at Tilney Investment Management, the UK investment adviser, said that during this crisis, “gold has performed its traditional purpose as the panic asset of choice”.

He added that the precious metal had rallied “hard since late March” when central banks embarked on the biggest expansion of their balance sheets in history.

Mr Hollands said the Ruffer fund invested mainly in gold mining equities, rather than physical bullion. “These effectively magnify movements in gold prices as such businesses have a lot of operational gearing given the costs of extraction,” he added.

Three funds from Baillie Gifford, the Scottish asset manager, have also performed well. Ryan Hughes, head of active portfolios at AJ Bell, the investment platform, said the strong performance of technology has helped drive positive returns for some Baillie Gifford funds.

Several other technology-focused funds also appear on the best-performing list.

“Historically, technology would have been perceived as higher risk and expected to fall faster than the market in a major sell-off, but this crisis has seen how technology has become integral to our everyday lives,” said Mr Hughes.

Managers of the Baillie Gifford American fund, which returned 26.5 per cent this year, said its “positioning towards the new economy, and away from industrial cyclicals, had a positive impact”, highlighting stocks such as Zoom, Netflix, drug company Moderna and Amazon.

In contrast, the worst-performing mutual funds in Europe included products investing in Latin America, such as the one offered by Ninety One, the asset manager formerly part of Investec, and BlackRock.

According to the data, Ninety One’s Investec Latin American Equity fund that was pegged to the US dollar lost 45 per cent this year. The asset manager said the fund, which is sub advised by a Latin American-focused investment company, had “experienced short-term performance challenges in the early part of 2020, driven by the sell-off in Brazil”, but added that performance had picked up in April.

Two funds run by Mark Barnett, the Invesco fund manager and former protégé of Neil Woodford, also rank among the worst-performing equity funds, losing about 30 per cent this year. Income and High Income have been battered as companies slash dividends in response to the pandemic.

Ashmore, the emerging markets specialist, was responsible for the two worst-performing bond funds in Europe. Its Emerging Markets Short Duration fund lost 34 per cent, while its Emerging Markets Total Return fund was down 20 per cent.

The Morningstar data include open-ended funds based in Europe that have at least €1bn in assets under management.

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