TORONTO, April 2, 2015 /CNW/ -- After posting solid gains in January and February, many fund categories in Canada were in the red for the month of March, but still had positive results for the first quarter of 2015. Thirty-two of the 42 Morningstar Canada Fund Indices, which measure the aggregate returns of funds in various standard categories, decreased during March, but 22 of those indices decreased less than 1%. For the quarter, only two fund indices were in the red, according to preliminary data today released by Morningstar Research Inc.
Asian equity funds were the best performers for both the month and the first quarter. The Morningstar indices that track fund returns in the Asia Pacific ex-Japan Equity and Greater China Equity categories increased by 2.2% and 3.5%, respectively, in March, and by 15.9% and 15.7%, respectively, in the first quarter. Other strong performers during the first three months of 2015 include the International Equity, European Equity, Asia Pacific Equity, and Global Equity fund indices, which all increased by 12% to 13%.
Funds in the U.S. Equity category were down slightly in March but increased by a healthy 8% for the quarter. Currency effects were the main driver of returns for these funds, as U.S. stock markets were mostly flat over the three-month period while the Canadian dollar depreciated by 8.5% versus its U.S. counterpart. The U.S. Small/Mid Cap Equity Fund Index did even better with a 10.9% increase for the quarter.
Domestic equity funds lost some ground in March but still eked out positive results for the quarter. The Morningstar Canadian Equity Fund Index was down 1.6% for the month and up 2.5% for the quarter. Funds that invest a large portion of their assets outside of Canada performed better, with the Morningstar Canadian Focused Equity Fund Index down 0.9% for the month and up 4.5% for the quarter.
The three largest stock sectors in Canada—energy, basic materials, and financials—were all down in March, and the results of the funds that specialize in those sectors followed accordingly. The Morningstar Financial Services Equity Fund Index was down 1.5% for the month and 2.3% for the quarter—the only equity fund index to lose ground over the three-month period. Precious Metals Equity was the worst-performing fund category in March with an 11.3% decrease, but thanks to its spectacular 25% increase in January, the fund index was positive for the quarter, up 5%. Meanwhile, the Natural Resources Equity and Energy Equity fund indices both increased by 0.5% for the quarter, despite decreases of 4.6% and 1.3%, respectively, last month.
"Resources, including copper and iron ore, were hit hard in March because of concerns about slowing demand from China," Morningstar Manager Research Analyst Shehryar Khan said. "Oil prices, while still volatile, seem to have settled into a more predictable range. Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz commented that the decline in oil prices was having an 'atrocious' effect on the economy—reflected in a poor quarter for the financials sector—but that the lower currency and continued economic recovery south of the border would be beneficial to the economy."
For more about March 2015 fund performance, go to www.morningstar.ca.
Morningstar Canada's preliminary fund performance figures are based on change in funds' net asset values per share during the month, and do not necessarily include end-of-month income distributions. Final performance figures will be published on www.morningstar.ca next week.
About Morningstar Research Inc. and Morningstar, Inc.
Morningstar Research Inc. is a Canadian subsidiary of Chicago-based Morningstar, Inc., a leading provider of independent investment research in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. The company offers an extensive line of products and services for individual investors, financial advisors, asset managers, and retirement plan providers and sponsors. Morningstar provides data on approximately 500,000 investment offerings, including stocks, mutual funds, and similar vehicles, along with real-time global market data on more than 14 million equities, indexes, futures, options, commodities, and precious metals, in addition to foreign exchange and Treasury markets. Morningstar also offers investment management services through its investment advisory subsidiaries and had approximately US$170 billion in assets under advisement or management as of Dec. 31, 2014. The company has operations in 27 countries.
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