In a year when the market has posted a rally the strength of which few saw coming, investors are making billions of dollars in wrong-way bets.
U.S. stock-focused active funds beating the market in the past 12 months have seen a whopping $154 billion in outflows, or nearly 4 percent of current assets, according to Morningstar. That compares with the outflows of $78 billion for funds that are lagging their benchmarks.
In that 12-month period, the S&P 500, one of the most popular benchmarks that mutual funds are measured against, has jumped more than 19 percent.
At the same time, 54 percent of large-cap fund managers have beaten their benchmarks, the best since the financial crisis, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
"If even outperformance can't alleviate the outflows, it is not clear what will," Alina Lamy, senior analyst of quantitative research at Morningstar, said in a report.
As a whole over the past 12 months, active funds focused only on U.S. equities have seen $238.7 billion in outflows. Passive funds — primarily ETFs — in the same category have attracted $268.1 billion, though investors stand little chance of beating the market with them being that they track market indexes.
Active funds in all categories have seen $186.9 billion in outflows, compared with the $713.6 billion that has gushed into passive.
In addition to dumping outperforming mutual funds, investors also are continuing to pour money into hedge funds, even though the $3.15 trillion industry has fallen well short of the S&P 500 this year.
Hedge funds have seen net inflows of $2.5 billion this year, a big shift from the $70 billion in redemptions they suffered in 2016.
That has come even though a widely followed gauge, the HFRI Fund Weighted Composite Index, had risen just 5.92 percent through September, compared with the 14.23 percent total return (including dividends) for the S&P 500 through the same period.