FUNDS run by Perpetual have ranked the best and third best-performing Australian share funds for last year.
The latest survey by Mercer shows the Perpetual Wholesale Ethical SRI Fund performed the best, with a return of almost 40 per cent.
The BlackRock Equitised Long Short Fund was second with a return of 30.6 per cent, while the Perpetual Wholesale Share-Plus Long-Short Fund came in third with 30.1 per cent.
Last year was a good one for Australian shares, with the market as measured by the S&P/ASX 300 index, including dividends, up by 19.7 per cent. Healthcare was the top-performing sector - a return of 47.5 per cent, followed by telecoms with 42.1 per cent.
The survey confirms just how difficult it is for funds to consistently outperform the market. The median-performing Australian share fund returned 20.3 per cent. That is an outperformance of the market by 0.6 percentage points. With an investment management fee of about 1 per cent, the typical fund is about 0.4 percentage points below the market return from an investor's point of view.
Fund managers have been launching new types of funds. Income-oriented funds - with a bias towards shares paying higher dividend yields - produced a return of 23.6 per cent last year.
The Mercer principal, David Carruthers, said the average manager, after fees, was pretty close to matching the market. "But if you are good at choosing a good manager, that would have paid off really well, with some of the top managers outperforming the market by 20 percentage points," he said.
"But don't just look at the one-year number, look for a consistent performer over 3 to 5 years."
The superior returns were not confined to equity funds. In dollar terms, funds that invested in overseas shares produced a median return, including dividends, of 15 per cent.