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Despite the fact that Wood's flagship ARK fund is in the red, investors continue to support it.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - One year after her Ark Innovation ETF more than doubled in value and made her a household name, star stock picker Cathie Wood is poised to join a small club that no one aspires to be a member of: portfolio managers whose funds have gone from first to worst in the span of a single calendar year.

Currently, the $16.7 billion exchange-traded fund is on track to finish the year down nearly 24 percent, making it one of only two actively-managed equity funds tracked by Morningstar to post a decline of more than 20 percent this year, at a time when the benchmark S&P 500 index is up slightly more than 21 percent.

Those losses are a far cry from the performance of the fund, which focuses on leaders in "disruptive" innovation, in 2020, when it soared thanks to its heavy bets on so-called "stay at home" stocks that thrived during the early stages of the pandemic, enabling the fund to post the best performance of any actively managed fund in the United States tracked by Morningstar during the same period.

As a result of Wood's aggressive growth strategy, only 14 out of 6,190 equity funds tracked by Morningstar since 2004 have experienced a similar swing from high to low in less than a year, demonstrating the risks associated with the company's strategy, according to Robby Greengold, an analyst at Morningstar.

It appears that Cathie Wood is less cautious than her peers when it comes to embracing high-risk names, according to the author.

For the purposes of this story, Ark Invest did not respond to a request for comment.

Her strategy has fallen out of favor recently, according to Wood, who has stated in recent webinars that it has done so because of temporary concerns about rising inflation, but that deflation will prove to be the greatest source of concern for financial markets and the economy in the year ahead.

Wood stated that despite the stock's losses for the year to date, "our confidence in our strategy has increased." [L1N2SZ25L]

The losses in the ARK Innovation portfolio are widespread, with eight of the fund's ten largest holdings having suffered losses of at least 8% over the previous 12 months. The most significant declines have occurred in Zoom Video Communications Inc and Teladoc Health Inc, both of which have lost more than 50% of their value for the year after rallying last year, as well as streaming company Roku Inc, which has lost nearly 30% of its value for the year.


Among the fund's top ten holdings, Tesla Inc. and Intellia Therapeutics Inc. are the only ones to have posted positive returns for the calendar year so far.

The fund gained 3.8 percent on Tuesday and is down 40.4 percent from its all-time high reached in February.

Despite the losses, investors appear to have remained committed to Wood's method of doing business. As of December 15, according to Lipper data, the fund had brought in slightly more than $5 billion in new money for the year, including nearly $229 million during the week that ended December 15.

ARK Innovation has maintained its position as one of the best-performing mid-cap growth funds over the last five years, generating an annualized return of 38 percent.

The fund's "tremendous success in 2020 was always going to be difficult to duplicate, but many piled in to start 2021 and have remained loyal despite a disappointing 2021," according to Todd Rosenbluth, head of mutual fund research at CFRA, a New York-based investment advisory company. "This bodes well for 2022, when many people will have a renewed sense of hope that they will not have to struggle in consecutive years."