Over the past 12 months, a pandemic has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, and lockdowns have pummeled businesses and the economy.
The stock market, however, shrugged off much of this gloom. Even when knocked off course by a wave of fear, share prices repeatedly bounced back, leaving bellwethers like the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 index setting new records by year’s end.
Investors in actively managed mutual funds fared even better, according to data from Refinitiv Lipper. While the Dow climbed 7.2% in 2020 and the S&P 500 wrapped up the year with a gain of more than 16%, the average diversified U.S. stock fund rewarded investors with a 19.1% increase.
The Wall Street Journal’s quarterly Winners’ Circle survey of top-performing actively managed U.S. stock mutual funds reveals that a baker’s dozen delivered gains of at least 100% for the 12 months ended Dec. 31, leaving a lucky subset of fund investors feeling that 2020 wasn’t such a grim year after all. The best of the bunch, measured only by raw performance numbers over that period, was fund (MSSGX), which posted a gain of 150.6%, including a 19.5% surge in the final four weeks of the year, according to data from Morningstar .
“We had this perfect storm, with low rates creating little in the way of alternatives” to stocks last year, says Dennis Lynch, head of the Counterpoint Global team at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, who oversees the fund. His team also manages three other funds that posted triple-digit gains in 2020, including fund (MPEGX). It posted a gain of 142.6% for the year, making it the fifth-best performer in our quarterly survey.