Cathie Wood just had her best month ever


After trailing the Nasdaq 100 for prolonged bouts of time this year, the ARKK Innovation ETF (ticker ARKK) gained a record 31% in November as investor hopes that the US will be able to start cutting interest rates in 2024 propelled gains in risky assets.

The performance looks strikingly similar to the monthly returns the founder and chief executive officer of ARK Investment Management regularly clocked during her record run in 2020. What has yet to reappear in the same force, however, are the flows.

While the ETF pulled in roughly $150 million in November, that pales in comparison to the often 1-billion-dollar-a month flows common to ARKK in its pandemic heyday. Even last year, when the fund’s price tumbled 67%, investors still managed to dump a net $1.29 billion into the fund, reflecting the cult-like following Wood amassed during her flagship fund’s record run in 2020.

Now, searches for the storied investor who found fame during the meme stock era have sunk well below their 2021 peak, according to Google Trends. 2023 is shaping up to be the first time ever ARKK will post an annual net outflow. 

“Investors are scarred from their ARK experience over the past several years,” said Nate Geraci, president of the ETF Store. “It’s going to take a long period of sustained outperformance to bring ARK investors back en masse.”

After mega-cap technology stocks lead the rally for most of the year, more speculative assets — like ARKK — led the charge in November. Moves in the fund’s top holdings Coinbase Global Inc. and Roku Inc., which are both up more than 60%, respectively, helped fuel the record month, where better than expected inflation data and more dovish Fedspeak pushed traders to price in an interest-rate cut as early as May of next year. 

“The November rally has been a major risk-on market versus a flight-to-safety rally in large-cap-tech earlier in the year during the banking crisis,” said Jay Hatfield, founder of Infrastructure Capital Management. 

ARKK has now posted its biggest monthly outperformance ever against the Nasdaq 100 and S&P 500, which are up 11% and 8.9%, respectively. 

The rebound expands beyond her flagship strategy. ARK Investment Management houses three of the top 10 performing non-leveraged ETFs in the US this month. Out of about 800 actively-managed, unleveraged equity ETFs, ARK runs three of the top four. Wood’s ARK Venture Fund (ARKVX) is having its best month of returns since June. 

But Wood’s funds are failing to attract investor interest. Year-to-date, every one of ARK Investment Management’s ETFs are sitting on outflows. 

ARKK’s experience vastly differs from the broader actively managed ETF universe. Active funds have taken in a record 24% share of the $460 billion that’s flowed to US ETFs so far this year. The bulk of that cash is being aimed at systematically managed ETFs and covered call strategies, offered by the likes of Dimensional Fund Advisors and JPMorgan Asset Management. 

While those products aren’t simple index-hugging funds either, it’s a different psychology than traditional stock-picking and placing high-conviction bets. And despite the fact that some of the most popular active ETFs are underperforming the S&P 500 this year — including JPMorgan’s $30 billion JPMorgan Equity Premium Income ETF (JEPI) — money continues to pour in.

A spokesperson for Ark did not respond to a request for comment. 

To be sure, ARKK’s record month comes from severely depressed levels. The ETF is still down 70% from its February 2021 peak, while the Nasdaq 100-tracking QQQ is up roughly 15% over the same period. 

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