Indian equity and energy-focused funds achieved a u-turn in their 2021 performance compared to the previous year, according to research from Fairview Investing and data from FE fundinfo, with the four worst funds of 2020 all featuring in 2021's list of the top six best performers.
Rocketing energy prices due to supply chain squeezes have meant that six out of the top ten best-performing funds in 2021 were energy-focused mandates.
The $433m Schroder ISF Global Energy SICAV took the top spot within the Investment Association universe with a total return of 48.8%, while the £32.4m TB Guinness Global Energy fund - a unit trust launched in 2008 - followed hot on its heels with gains of 45.7%.
Sister fund Guinness Global Energy, a $256m Ireland-domiciled ICVC run by the same managers, came in fourth place with a total return of 45.5%, despite having been the single worst performer in 2020.
GS North American Energy & Energy Infrastructure Equity, BlackRock GF World Energy and Pimco GIS MLP & Energy Infrastructure, came in fifth, sixth and eighth place respectively, with total returns of 44.3%, 43.9% and 43.4%.
Indian equity funds also fared well in 2021, with 20% of the top ten list populated by such mandates, despite being the emerging market laggards of 2020.
Ben Yearsley, managing director of Fairview Investing, said: "Away from energy, India was probably the surprise package of last year. When you look back at the surging Covid rates in the spring in India, it would have been a brave person to have made India one of the go-to stockmarkets.
"However, a successful vaccination programme and political stability have led to the long-term growth story reasserting itself."
He added that it is "good to see an Indian fund with sustainability at the core performing exceptionally well", with manager Mike Sell's $33.4m Luxembourg-domiciled Alquity Indian Subcontinent achieving the seventh best total return of 2021 at 43.6%.
The other Indian equity fund to have achieved a top ten performance was Nomura India Equity, a $282m Ireland-domiciled mandate run by Vipul Mehta, with a total return of 45.6%
Conversely, the ten worst performers of 2021 comprised a mixture of Chinese equity, Latin American and frontier market funds.
"The bottom of the fund universe was mixed," Yearsley said. "China funds were unsurprisingly near the foot after investors took fright at renewed regulatory crackdowns - however, who hadn't factored political risk into a China thesis?
"Latin America and Brazil also featured at the bottom end of the table on the back of more political shenanigans."
Robert Mumford's GAM Star China Equity and Hyomi Jie's Fidelity China Consumer found themselves in fourth and tenth place respectively for the worst performance, having lost 26% and 24.1% throughout the course of 2021. Elsewhere, HSBC GIF Brazil Equity came in third place with a loss of 28.1%, while HSBC MSCI Turkey and JPM Brazil Equity fell by a respective 25.6% and 25.2%.
The second worst-performing fund, according to Yearsley's research, was the £164.2m LF Equity Income fund - previously Woodford Equity Income - having tumbled by 34.4%.
The £3.4m Garraway Absolute Equity fund lost the most money, however, having fallen by 34.7%.
Yearsley added: "This fund has to be among the most volatile as it frequently features either at the top or bottom of the IA universe."