If consistency of performance is an important criterion for picking an equity mutual fund, 2008 isn't going to give you much to choose from, as it doesn't look like any stock fund will end the year with a respectful string of positive annual returns.
But some equity and stock-bond "hybrid" funds have great chances of celebrating the new year with 10-year streaks of beating the S&P 500 total-return index.
The five funds in the accompanying table have bested the S&P's performance in each of the past nine calendar years and, although in negative territory, still remain ahead of the popular market gauge for the first 10 months of 2008. If they can maintain their leads over the benchmark for the remainder of the year, they will be members of an exclusive club of funds that has outperformed the S&P 500 for each of 10 consecutive calendar years.
If one of the funds on the list, the First Eagle Overseas Fund (SGOVX), can somehow achieve the heroic task of overcoming a 25.75% year-to-date deficit in the remaining weeks of 2008, it will be able to boast 10 consecutive years of positive performance.The remarkable First Eagle fund stresses the importance of global diversification in achieving superior consistency of performance. SGOVG and the Mutual European Fund (TEMIX) direct their investments entirely outside the U.S. while two other funds in the table, the BlackRock Global Allocation Fund (MDLOX) and the Mutual Discovery Fund (TEDIX), invest in the U.S. as well as internationally. The globally focused BlackRock fund has major positions in some major U.S. blue chips, including General Electric (GE), Exxon Mobil (XOM) and Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNI). It offsets them with a position in the iShares Russell 2000 Index ETF (IRU).