For active managers, it's been a brutal 10 years

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The results are in for active managers, and they're pretty terrible.

Fewer than 1 in 4 active managers have outperformed market benchmarks over the past 10 years and only about 4 percent of large-cap growth fund pros did so in 2014, according to a sweeping new study released Thursday by S&P Dow Jones Indices.

At a time when the broader market has been on a tear, posting double-digit percentage increases over each of the last three years and with the S&P 500 up about 210 percent from its lows six years ago, stock pickers have lagged well behind. More than 86 percent of large-cap managers overall lagged basic indexes in 2014, and more than 82 percent fell into the same boat over the past three-, five- and 10-year periods.

No category saw a greater-than-50 percent outperformance rate in 2014, with mid-gap growth coming close as 56.25 percent missed. Over a 10-year period large-cap value managers came closest, with a 58.8 percent underperformance rate.

The report adds more fire to the debate between active and passive management and comes as active managers actually are enjoying a relatively good year. Some 55 percent are beating benchmarks in 2015, owing largely to a growing level of dispersion in performance between the best and worst market sectors that has gone along with periodic levels of high market volatility, according to Thomas J. Lee, founder and lead strategist at Fundstrat Global Advisors.

This table shows the level of underperformance by strategy: