Special Report

The 7 Worst Investments of 2014

1. Mutual Funds

The Nysa Fund is the worst performing mutual fund of 2014, down 41% so far this year. The fund received just one out of five stars from Morningstar, the worst rating for past performance awarded.

As of its most recent semi-annual report, filed in September, the Nysa Fund reported that, net of waivers offered, fund expenses totalled 2.76% of average net assets. That figure is actually far lower than in the past — expenses exceeded 5% in the year ending March 31 2014, and were above 4% in each of the preceding four years. Large fund holdings, as of September, included natural resources company Freeport-McMoran, shipping and deepwater drilling company DryShips, and drugmaker Dendreon. All three have recorded massive losses this year, and Dendreon even filed for bankruptcy in November.

According to Bob Cuculich, portfolio manager of the Nysa Fund, the fund should be considered a speculative investment and is designed to constitute only a small part of a well-diversified investor’s portfolio.

ALSO READ: The Seven Best Investments of 2014

2. ETFs

So far this year, Russia-focused funds have struggled. In particular, the Market Vectors Russia Small-Cap ETF has declined nearly 44%. The fund’s weak performance may be largely explained by the general weakness of the Russian economy in the last year. A decline in oil prices and international sanctions against the country are among the factors that have caused a deep plunge in the rouble. Other Russia-focused ETFs have struggled as well: the Market Vectors Russia ETF, SPDR S&P Russia ETF, and iShares MSCI Russia Capped ETF are all down by more than a third this year.

3. Large cap stocks

The S&P 500 has risen by more than 11% so far this year, and the large majority of its stocks are up as well. However, a number of stocks have not been able to ride the strong market. Among these is Transocean Ltd., an offshore driller, which is down 59% so far in 2014. This is due in large part to a huge slide in crude oil prices as well as an oversupplied market for drilling rigs.

In November, Transocean announced it would take more than $2.7 billion in impairment charges due to a drop in utilization of its rigs, as well as a drop in its rates. Speculation about dividend cuts have also plagued offshore drillers, especially following the decision by one — Seadrill — to eliminate its dividend.

4. IPOs

The market for IPOs has been white-hot in 2014. According to Renaissance Capital, manager of IPO-focused ETFs, the number of U.S. IPOs has increased by 23.6% from 2013, while the total amount raised has risen by 65%, to $82 billion. Additionally, Alibaba Group Holding successfully staged the largest IPO in history, raising almost $21.8 billion.

However, not all newly-public stocks have performed well. Shares of Amedica, a silicon nitride implant maker, have fallen by more than 90%. With a book value of just under $12 million and nearly $5 million in losses in the last quarter, Amedica is quite small and quite risky. Of course, Amedica is not alone among dramatically falling IPOs. Offshore driller North Atlantic Drilling, IT company Sysorex, and Malaysian mobile payments company MOL Global have all plunged 75% or more so far this year.

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