Investing in equity mutual funds : a study of the Norwegian fund market
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- Master Thesis 
In this thesis we have analyzed Norwegian equity funds over the last eleven year period. We investigate if the performance of individual funds can be attributed to the skillset of managers, if investors can achieve abnormal returns by betting on funds with historical good performance, and if applying an optimization framework within previous winners provide additional benefits to the average of these funds. We use a data set free of survivorship-bias with monthly and daily net returns for 55 actively managed Norwegian mutual funds in the period 2009-2019. We find that Norwegian equity mutual funds, on aggregate, are able to cover their costs, but do not deliver any abnormal performance over their benchmark. To test the skillset of managers in individual funds we apply a bootstrap procedure from Kosowski et al. (2006). We are unable to find sufficient evidence to claim any presence of skill, or lack of skill, among fund managers in the best and worst performing funds. Inspired by Riley (2019), we then turn to a portfolio approach based largely on persistence in performance among previous winners. With monthly rebalancing we find that optimal portfolios from the Treynor and Black (1973) model achieve positive alphas before transaction costs across several formation parameters, but do not deliver any added performance over the average fund in the same portfolio. Despite the alphas being positive, we do not find enough evidence to claim the strategy deliver a performance better than the passive benchmark for an investor. We also test the long-run persistence in performance for the portfolios and find that monthly rebalancing is necessary in order to maintain a positive alpha. All taken together, our results indicate that actively managed Norwegian equity mutual funds do not add value for investors compared to an equivalent passive investment. This holds both when funds are evaluated individually and as portfolios consisting of past winners.