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Related to Underperform: Overperform
In general, this means to do worse than some particular benchmark. Mutual Fund XYZ is said to underperform the S&P500 if its return falls short of the S&P500 return. However, this language does not take risk into account. That is, one might have a lower return than the benchmark in a particular year because of lower risk exposure. Underperform is also a term used by analysts to describe the prospects of a particular company. Usually, this means that the company will do worse than its industry average. Related: outperform.
A broker's or brokerage firm's rating of a security. Such a security is expected to do marginally worse than the market as a whole for the period of time it holds the "underperform" rating. Some firms call the rating "market underperform" "moderate sell" or "weak hold." Different firms have different rating systems, but "underperform" is usually one rating above "sell" and one rating below "market perform" or "neutral." For example, if the market is expected to rise slightly, but a certain company's fundamentals are thought to be slightly weaker than the rest of the market, a brokerage firm might change that company's rating from market perform to underperform.