Cathie Wood is still a star, but some of the shine came off this year

Trader Talk

Catherine Wood, chief executive officer of ARK Investment Management LLC, speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, on Monday, Oct. 18, 2021.
Kyle Grillot | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Cathie Wood started the year as a bona fide superstar in the rarified world of active stock picking. She ends the year still a superstar, but the ebb and flow of her flagship fund illustrates the danger of being an aggressive active stock picker.

Among her largest holdings, Block, Coinbase, Unity Software and Zoom Video are all down more than 10% in December, with lesser declines for Twilio, Teladoc and Spotify and a 3% decline for her largest holding, Tesla.

On Monday, Wood lightened up on many positions, selling stakes in most of her major holdings.

ARK Innovation: largest holdings

(% change in December)

Block down 19%

Coinbase down 15%

Unity Software down 15%

Zoom Video down 10%

Twilio down 9%

Teladoc down 7%

Tesla down 3%

Spotify down 1%

ARK Innovation Fund: outflows very modest

As for inflows and outflows, the inflows peaked very early this year. However, given the volatile stocks she owns, holders of her flagship ARK Innovation Fund (ARKK), have been remarkably loyal. Since peaking in April with 201 million shares outstanding, there has been a slow but steady trickle of outflows, now 173 million shares, down 15% from that April peak, but that level has been fairly steady in the last few weeks.

That is impressive loyalty, given the fund is down 21% this year and 38% off its 52-week high it hit way back in February, and that it hit an intraday low for the year just a few weeks ago.

ARK Innovation ETF

Shares outstanding

April: 201 million

Today: 173 million

YTD return: down 21%

% off 52-wk high: 38%

Most of the major holdings also hit new highs earlier this year: all but Tesla are at least 30% off their 52-week highs.

The perils of buying into innovation

Bottom line: There’s nothing wrong with Cathie Wood’s main line of reasoning–disruptive technology companies will change the world.

True enough, but when everyone buys into the argument and prices go through the roof for companies that currently make little or no profit (Teladoc, Twilio, Spotify, Unity Software), or trade for an enormous multiple to earnings (Roku, Block, Tesla), some investors will inevitably start questioning what the right price should be.

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