Ark’s Cathie Wood Continues to Stumble

Soaring interest rates and weak economic growth have dented Wood’s young, ‘disruptive’ technology companies.

It’s been a rough 2022 for famed money manager Cathie Wood, chief executive of Ark Investment Management, as her exchange-traded funds sink.

Wood’s flagship fund, Ark Innovation ETF  (ARKK) – Get ARK Innovation ETF Report, plunged 64% year to date through Oct. 14, hitting a five-year low. Ark Innovation has tumbled 79% from its February 2021 record high.

Soaring interest rates and sluggish economic growth have dented Wood’s young, “disruptive” (as she describes them) technology companies. Rising rates hurt them because their earnings stream will come down the road (if at all), while the safe yields of Treasury bonds are rising now.

Ark Innovation’s biggest holding, electric vehicle titan Tesla  (TSLA) – Get Tesla Inc. Report, has lost 42% year to date. No. 2, video conferencing company Zoom Video Communications  (ZM) – Get Zoom Video Communications Inc. Report, has plummeted 61%. And No. 3, video streaming service Roku  (ROKU) – Get Roku Inc. Report, has dived 78%.

Wood calls this year’s descent by tech stocks a buying opportunity. And she defends her recent losses by noting that she has a five-year investment horizon.

Five-Year Underperformance

The five-year track record of Ark Innovation could indeed give investors comfort up to May 9. The fund’s five-year return beat that of the S&P 500 until then.

But the five-year annualized return of Ark Innovation totaled a paltry 1.07% through Oct. 14, far behind the S&P 500’s 8.93% return, according to Morningstar.

Despite that underperformance, the $6.7 billion fund enjoyed a net inflow of $1.27 billion year to date through Oct. 13, according to VettaFi, an ETF research firm. Clearly many investors are loyal to Mama Cathie, as some fans call her.

But the tide may be starting to turn. Over the five days through Oct. 13, Ark Innovation suffered a $204 million outflow.

Investor Loyalty

You might wonder why so many investors have stuck with Wood, despite her mediocre returns. The fact that she had one spectacular year certainly helps. Ark Innovation ETF skyrocketed 153% in 2020.

Also, Wood has become something of a rock star in the investment world. She has appeared frequently in the media over the last couple years. She is clearly intelligent and articulate, explaining financial concepts in ways that novice investors can understand.

Still, Wood has drawn detractors. On March 29, Morningstar analyst Robby Greengold issued a scathing critique of Ark Innovation.

“ARKK shows few signs of improving its risk management or ability to successfully navigate the challenging territory it explores,” he wrote.

Wood countered Greengold’s points in an interview with Magnifi Media by Tifin. “I do know there are companies like that one [Morningstar] that do not understand what we’re doing,” she said.

If Wood’s investment performance rebounds, her true believers will say, “I told you so.” If it doesn’t, it will be interesting to see how long investors are willing to stick with her.

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