About 60% of all KiwiSaver funds tracked by Morningstar ended 2018 in the red.
It has released its latest KiwiSaver survey, showing sharemarket volatility hurt fund managers.
Returns for the calendar year ranged from 3.60% down to a loss of 6.77%. The conservative category recorded an average return of 1.3% for the year, followed by moderate funds at 0.4%, balanced with an average loss of 1.3%, growth an average loss of 2.1% and aggressive an average loss of 4.1%.
The top performers over the quarter included FANZ Lifestages KiwiSaver Income, Fisher Two KiwiSaver Scheme and Aon KiwiSaver Russell Lifepoints.
Milford KiwiSaver Active Growth Fund topped the performance across all multisector categories over 10 years.
This approach was originally launched as a domestic-equity capability but has become more diversified as it has grown with offshore exposure and investments across asset classes. Performance has stacked up favourably against peers, with returns comfortably ahead of the category average.
"Despite a difficult year for many other equity markets New Zealand shares delivered a positive return of 4.9% and was one of the best performing developed economy equity markets last year," the report said.
"Australian shares fell 8.2% over the quarter and 2.8% over the year. The Achilles heel of the Australian market was the large financial sector, which dropped by 14.8% in the wake of highly damaging findings by the Royal Commission. There were patches of positive performance: the defensive consumer staples stocks performed reasonably well as did IT shares, and the miners were also ahead for the year.
"But the dead weight of the struggling financials, plus losses for the industrials and consumer discretionary stocks were the dominant influence. For New Zealand investors, the losses in Australian dollar terms were compounded by the appreciation of the New Zealand dollar against the Australian dollar."