Best and worst: Unit Trust Sectors

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The Independent Online
CASH IS not always king. A look at the league table of unit trusts by sectors shows that funds invested in cash and money markets were the worst performers over one year, with investors making an average pounds 3 on each pounds 100.

The poor returns were the result of very low interest rates offered by building societies, and poor rates in the money markets - which are currently lower than base rates in anticipation of another interest-rate cut.

Over three years, the average return on these funds is about 20 per cent, reflecting the recent steep decline in base rates from 14 per cent to 5.5 per cent.

Many of the money market funds were set up after the 1987 stock market crash, to enable unit trust investors to move swiftly into cash if and when share prices began to tumble.

Two of the other poor- performing sectors, UK gilt and fixed interest and international fixed interest, are linked to interest rates.

Funds invested in North America continue to show poorer returns than other areas, with an average 10 per cent gain over one year. Stephen Lowe, head of US equities for Gartmore, said: 'In relative terms, last year was a good year for the US.' He added that the expected rise in US interest rates might not have a detrimental effect on equity markets next year, but said increasing interest rates would increase volatility.

UK equity general funds also performed comparatively poorly. Richard Hughes, head of M & G's UK unit trust desk, said: 'Many of these funds would be invested in blue-chip shares, which are not performing as well as the smaller companies.'

Unit trusts invested in gold, or partly invested in gold, were the best-performing funds over the year.

These funds were coming off a low base - their three-year performance is only slightly better than the one-year performance.

The spectacular rise in gold funds was linked to the increase in the gold price, which in turn was pushed up by demand from the Far East. Unit trusts invested in the Far East were also among the top performers.

----------------------------------------------------------------- UNIT TRUST SECTORS ----------------------------------------------------------------- The best % 1 Commodity and energy. . . . . . . . . . . . 194.06 2 Far East excluding Japan. . . . . . . . . . 188.89 3 Far East including Japan. . . . . . . . . . 159.61 4 Investment trust units. . . . . . . . . . . 150.55 5 Financial and property. . . . . . . . . . . 143.63 The worst 18 UK equity general. . . . . . . . . . . . . 118.83 19 UK gilt and fixed interest. . . . . . . . .114.67 20 International fixed interest. . . . . . . .110.72 21 North American. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .110.34 22 Money Market. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .103.78 ----------------------------------------------------------------- Chart shows average growth of unit trusts in sector over one year. Offer to bid, net income reinvested. Source: Micropal -----------------------------------------------------------------

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