BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- This year is the moment of truth for mutual fund managers. As the economy slows and stocks fall, managers' strategies are laid bare, and those who can't make money for investors face the firing squad.
The Legg Mason Value Trust, which beat the S&P 500 Index for a record 15 years under Bill Miller, has slumped 10% this year. Ken Heebner's CGM Focus Fund, which used to gain more in one quarter than most funds did in a year, has dropped twice as much as the Value Trust. Even Fidelity's Contrafund has declined 1.9%. The Boston mutual fund firm's Harry Lange, manager of the Magellan Fund, was replaced this week because of poor performance.
Brian Lazorishak of the Chase Mid-Cap Growth Fund (CHAMX) is earning his keep. The mutual fund is in the top 2% of its category in terms of performance this year with a return of 6% and the top 1% over the past 12 months with a 27% gain, as tracked by Morningstar. The S&P 500 Index is down 4% this year and up 8% over the past 12 months.
Lazorishak, the lead manager of the fund since 2002, said in an interview that although his best successes have been in consumer companies, Chase Mid-Cap Growth's management doesn't use a sector-focused approach in selecting stocks. Rather, it performs a series of evaluation screens to trim the field down to 600 or so prospects and then applies another test based on fundamentals. Then it reviews each of the finalists for the winners."We look for positive earnings revisions and good trends for earnings and stock prices. We're not picking fallen angels here," Lazorishak told TheStreet. "The mid-cap space has top performers, but they're not household names. There are companies out there that are doing quite well." The fund is an offering from Chase Investment Counsel of Charlottesville, Va. Here is a synopsis of seven top-performing stocks from the fund's portfolio: