Should your 401(k) fund be packed with tech stocks?

Finding the "right" amount depends on your other holdings, your appetite for risk and how close you are to retirement

By Bloomberg News

Jun 15, 2017 @ 7:11 pm EST

How tech-savvy are you? Recent volatility in popular technology stocks, including Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Facebook Inc., Google parent Alphabet Inc. and others, is a reminder to check the tech weighting in your retirement portfolio.

There's nothing wrong with having a big slug of tech stocks in your 401(k) or IRA retirement fund. These shares have swelled the assets of many an aspiring retiree in recent years. The "right" amount depends on your other holdings, your appetite for risk and how close you are to retirement.

The important thing is to know what you are invested in and be comfortable with it, so any further volatility doesn't stress you out, or worse, freak you out and trigger a bout of panic selling.

One popular 401(k) fund that stands out for its tech weighting is the $114.5 billion Fidelity Contrafund. In a list of the most popular equity-focused funds in 401(k) plans, by assets, Contrafund ranks third. (The financial information company Brightscope, which provided the list, says the actual amount of 401(k) assets is proprietary; it is undoubtedly a large chunk of assets.)

While some actively managed large-cap funds are denigrated as nothing more than expensive closet index funds, you can't pin that label on Contrafund. It was 36.7% tech in the latest monthly data, from April, according to Morningstar. That's as high as the monthly measure has been in two decades, and compares with the 20.1% in tech for the S&P 500 at the end of April (now about 22.5%). If the portfolio has stayed much the same since April, its tech stake would be 37.4% as of June 12.

The fund's top holdings include a 6.9% stake in Facebook, 4.5% in Amazon.com Inc., 3.8% in Alphabet Inc., 3.7% in Apple and 2.55 in Microsoft. A 4.9% holding of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. provides some ballast and rounds out the top five holdings, bringing them to a little more than 26% of the fund. As tech shares fell on Friday, June 9, Berkshire rose 1.9%, and as tech fell further on Monday, it inched up a bit more. On Tuesday, when much of the tech sector ended up, Berkshire did, too.

Contrafund's much smaller cousin, the $37.8 billion Fidelity Growth Company, also has about a quarter of its assets in its top five holdings. The stocks are Nvidia Corp. at 6.3%, Apple at 5.4, Amazon at 4.8, Alphabet at 3.8 and Facebook at 3.3. The fund is No. 9 on Brightscope's list.

Vanguard Wellington, a $100 billion fund, was approaching peak tech at the end of April — but for Wellington that meant 9%. Wellington, which falls into Morningstar's category of asset allocation funds, has about 31% in bonds. Top stock holding: Microsoft, at 2.1%. At the $53.9 billion Vanguard Primecap, Microsoft is also a top five holding, at 4.3%.

Adviser Investments' Dan Wiener, editor of The Independent Adviser for the Vanguard Investors newsletter, notes that investment managers at Primecap Management aren't heavy in FANG stocks — Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google and the like — since they seek out value even in tech. Mr. Wiener's firm has $800 million of its $5 billion under management in funds run by Primecap Management. Vanguard Primecap's portfolio did have about 4% in Alphabet as of March 31.

In the grand scheme of things, the recent downdraft in tech, which came in the wake of a warning about tech stock valuations from Goldman Sachs Group's global chief investment officer, Robert Boroujerdi, isn't a huge deal. The S&P 500 was basically flat during the turbulence. The Nasdaq Composite Index, which fell 1.8% on Friday and 0.5% on Monday, rose on Tuesday, along with many widely held tech stocks. The index is up 15.5% so far this year.

It's worth noting, though, that just five names accounted for almost 75% of the drop in the Nasdaq, and that those stocks — Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Facebook and Amazon — weigh heavily in a number of the top actively managed funds.

If the recent tech stock volatility made you jittery, you may want to revisit your risk tolerance, and perhaps consider a more diversified stock index fund. Just remember, even an S&P 500 index fund has a big slug of tech now, at 22.5%.

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