Cathie Wood Is Human. That’s Her Biggest Downfall and Why ARK Is Down 56% This Year.

By TradeSmith Editorial Staff

Listen to this post
When you see a story right now about Cathie Wood, the portfolio manager of the Ark Innovation ETF (ARKK), you’ll hear about how ARKK is down 56% this year.

Or how Wood is doubling down on stocks that just keep sinking further.

Or how over the last five years, the S&P 500, which started tracking 500 stocks in 1957 and could be considered a “senior citizen” at 65 years old, has performed better (70.8%) than ARKK (57.15%), a fund that focuses on investing in new and disruptive technology.

But what you’re not hearing is why this has happened.

I’m not here to personally pick on Wood. I could talk about her genius side, and that she could probably be doing 98% of things right.

What I want to talk about is the 2% that she has done wrong, because it’s that part of her decision-making process that sent the ARKK price plummeting 72% from $152.61 on Feb. 5, 2021, to an opening price yesterday of $42.52.

Woods’ problem is that she’s acting human.

When you’re managing $8.6 billion in assets (just for ARKK, not her other ETFs), you need to be a machine. Machines are calculated, work within a set framework, and have no emotion. They are programmed for one job and execute it. In comparison, humans are risk-averse when we are winning, we sell too early, and we buy too high and then throw in the towel as a stock price sinks.

We can’t manage our emotions, and it leads us to doing the exact opposite of what we need to be doing in the stock market.

Fortunately for us, we have tools at TradeSmith that let us execute like machines, taking the emotion out of investing and finding the best times to buy and sell.

How to Avoid the Mistakes of Cathie Wood

Wood has made one of the most classic investor mistakes: not having an exit strategy.

That comes from not having a fully formed plan that considers what to do when things go south.

Had she just installed a trailing stop, her results could’ve been much different (and, I suspect, far more lucrative).

A trailing stop is a stop price set at a defined percentage below the current market price of the position.

At TradeSmith, we tie our trailing stops to the Volatility Quotient (VQ), our proprietary measure of a stock’s inherent volatility. These smart trailing stops help us take advantage of the natural ebb and flow of price movement, to maximize any gains while ensuring we don’t get stopped out too soon.

Looking at the top holdings in ARKK, I see that the next five biggest positions after Tesla all hit the Red Zone, or their stop-loss point. However, Wood kept them in the fund, where they continue to lose money to this day.

See for yourself:

  • Zoom Video Communications Inc. (ZM) — entered the Red Zone on Sept. 15, 2021, at $287.68; fell -70.5% to $84.80
  • Roku Inc. (ROKU) — entered the Red Zone on Nov. 23, 2021, at $226.06; fell -65.2% to $78.72
  • Exact Sciences Corp. (EXAS) — entered the Red Zone on Nov. 17, 2021, at $88.38; fell -45.5% to $48.20
  • Block Inc. (SQ) — entered the Red Zone on Dec. 20, 2021, at $158.30; fell -55% to $71.22
  • Teladoc Health Inc. (TDOC) — entered the Red Zone on May 3, 2021, at $151.04; fell -81% to $28.68
Note: All loss percentages are for the period between the date of Red Zone entry and May 11, 2022.

My guess is that Wood believes they will eventually turn around, as do all investors who are clinging to these stocks and hoping for a rebound.

That’s the human aspect of investing and trading that we want to avoid.

We want to use tools like trailing stops and our VQ system instead of our emotions.

With that in mind, let’s put ARKK under the microscope of our system to see how we can use tools and strategies to our advantage.

ARKK Gets the TradeSmith Treatment

ARKK triggered an Entry Signal on May 22, 2020, at $61.27. From there it soared to $155.30 before tumbling to its stop-loss at $125.64 on March 8, 2021 – managing a gain of 105%.

Currently, ARKK remains in the Red Zone and in a downtrend (since Jan. 19, 2022), so further losses may be on the way. Our timing algorithms suggest that ARKK is approaching a peak, confirming a bearish outlook.

With a VQ of 38.17%, it’s a high-risk opportunity, but taking the trend and approaching peak into account, it’s probably not worth any potential reward at this point.

None of the high-profile billionaires we track in the Billionaires Club hold this ETF, nor does it match any strategies in the TradeSmith Ideas Lab.

If you’re drawn to this fund because you believe in its mission of bundling innovative, disruptive companies, like Tesla, Zoom, and Roku, I’d suggest putting it on a watchlist and waiting for another Entry Signal.

If Wood is nuts for not using a trailing stop, so are you, if you don’t either.

Cathie Wood and Ark Invest serve as a cautionary tale that no one, no matter how brilliant, is immune from our emotions and how they can lead us to lose money. Staying in stocks with the hopes they’ll turn around is tantamount to throwing darts in the dark; if all you’re relying on is a gut instinct, your probability of success tapers significantly.

You want to know what to buy, when to buy it, and most importantly, when to sell it.

At TradeSmith, we have the tools to help you in each of these three crucial areas.