There is also the uncertainty about when the Federal Reserve will increase interest rates. Some suspect the rise could come at a meeting of the “Fed” this week, while others think officials will wait until the election has passed and move rates up in December.
The case for active fund management
These uncertain times are exactly when active managers would argue that their skill and ability to select particular stocks should beat the market, enabling them to profit from any rises but dodge most of the market falls. Passive funds, by contrast, will reflect all the ups and downs of the market.
“The recent flap caused when Fed officials hinted that interest rates might go up more quickly than the market expected saw a very wide divergence of reactions in the markets,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, the fund shop.
“There has been a very wide range of sector performance. That is potentially when active managers can get ahead of the crowd and target sectors that were unloved, and not follow the herd.”
US fund managers admit that passive funds are their biggest competition. Nick Ford, manager of the Miton US Opportunities fund, said he was trying to win over investors who were invested in passives rather than assets from other active managers.
“Any active manager would argue the case that now is the time to go active very powerfully,” said Mr Mould. “If the market goes down, passives will follow it down, while fund managers will argue they would do a better job of protecting you from falls.”
Mr Mould gave the example of the Fidelity American Special Situations fund as an active fund that had far outperformed the index. It has returned 166.9pc over five years, compared with the 138.8pc return of the S&P 500 index.
“The fund has done a fantastic job,” he said. “It invests in a select number of stocks and draws a line in the sand at what is good value and what is not. That technique has worked tremendously well for a consistent period.”
The manager, Angel Agudo, said he was already seeing opportunities in the market. “The recent bout of volatility has created numerous interesting stockpicking opportunities,” he said. In particular, he has more money in the technology, industrial and health care sectors.