Morningstar upgrades JPMAM and Lazard funds

Morningstar has handed out a silver grade to Clare Hart’s JPM US Equity Income fund and James Donald’s Lazard Emerging Markets fund.

In its latest round of rating changes, Morningstar also downgraded the Baring Eastern Europe fund from silver to bronze and gave the BlackRock UK Absolute Alpha fund a neutral rating.

Ruli Viljoen, head of fund research at Morningstar, said the Lazard Emerging Markets fund, an Investment Adviser 100 Club member, had been upgraded because of the “consistent and structured process” and the “success of this approach in varying market conditions”.

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The fund has delivered top quartile performance in the IMA Global Emerging Markets sector for five and 10 years, though it has slipped into the third quartile in the past year, according to FE Analytics.

Ms Viljoen said Ms Hart’s US Equity Income fund had been upgraded from bronze because of the “continuity in management, alongside the consistency shown in the application of the process, both of which have resulted in a positive and stable performance profile for the fund”.

Launched in 2008, the JPM fund has beaten the IMA North America sector average return in one, three and five years.

The only rating downgrade in the latest set of changes was given to Ghadir Abu Leil Cooper’s Baring Eastern Europe fund, from bronze to silver.

She said: “Although the fund’s manager, Ghadir Abu Leil-Cooper, has been in situ for an extended period of time, there have been some changes to the team in recent years.

“Furthermore, the manager’s disappointing stock selection has resulted in a period of sustained underperformance which has led to a deterioration of the fund’s risk-return profile.”

Morningstar had had the BlackRock UK Absolute Alpha fund under review since the departure of former manager Mark Lyttleton in 2013.

It has now given the fund a rating of ‘neutral’ following a meeting with new co-manager Nigel Ridge.

Ms Viljoen acknowledged Mr Ridge’s experience running hedge fund mandates but said the UK Absolute Alpha fund would present “different challenges”.

She said: “We acknowledge that the performance of the fund has improved since Mr Ridge was appointed as co-manager, but at this stage we believe a neutral rating to be appropriate.”