The top-five-performing Vanguard funds for November benefited from a bounce in some industries. Still, at least one of them has plummeted almost 60 percent over one year.
The best-performing fund was the Vanguard Energy Fund (VGENX), which bets on oil and gas, and oil and gas services. The fund may have more gains in December, given names like ExxonMobil (XOM), Chevron (CVX), Schlumberger (SLB) and Occidental Petroleum (OXY) as top holdings, and OPEC talking production cuts to support the price of oil and prevent its slide as the global economy weakens. Given the volatile oil market, the fund is more suited to a trader or speculator than an investor. The Vanguard Energy Index Fund (VENAX) employs a similar strategy to VGENX.
The Vanguard Telecommunications Services Index Fund (VTCAX) is a concentrated fund for those seeking exposure to specific telecommunications companies, namely Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T), which account for a combined 40% of the fund's holdings. You may not want to be in this space if the economy continues to cool, which looks likely.
The place to be for a deep, drawn-out recession might be the utilities sector because of its relative stability. The Vanguard Utilities Index Fund (VUIAX) can get you there with its 85% investment in electricity. The fund tracks the MSCI US Investable Market Utilities Index, and its top holdings include Exelon (EXC), Southern Co. (SO) and Dominion Resources (D).Last and definitely least is the Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock Index Fund (VEIEX). You would have to be blind to risk and devoid of common sense to invest in emerging markets now. The fund is down a whopping 60% for the year and, no, this probably does not signal a value opportunity.
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