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Growth Mutual Funds for Volatile Times

To avoid overpaying, Meade often buys when a stock has slipped.

A top holding is CoStar Group (CSGP), which provides data on commercial real estate sales to brokers and property owners. Since the financial crisis, the stock has fallen out of favor as real estate brokers have struggled. But CoStar has achieved growing earnings by signing up new customers.

A solid mid-cap growth fund is FBR Focus, which returned 2.4% during the past three months, outdoing 98% of peers.

The fund returned 4.6% annually during the past five years, surpassing 62% of competitors.

FBR favors companies that have "wide moats," meaning they occupy secure positions that are hard for competitors to invade.

A top holding is American Tower (AMT), which builds and owns towers that are used by cellular phone companies. Once a tower is in place, it is difficult for other companies to build competing structures nearby because of zoning rules. As cellular traffic grows, companies are paying more rent to American Tower.

Another holding with a solid franchise is Penn National Gaming (PENN), which owns casinos in second-tier locations, such as Charles Town, W. Va. and Sioux City, Iowa.

Gambling in such cities is strictly controlled, and only a few operators are granted licenses. That protects the markets of existing casinos. In contrast, casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas face competition from many rivals.

Aston/Montag & Caldwell Growth ranks as a low-risk large-cap growth fund.

During the past three months, the fund lost 0.59% and outdid 86% of competitors. Aston/Montag also returned 4.1% annually during the past five years, topping 79% of competitors.

Portfolio manager Ron Canakaris looks for the most stable companies that can grow at least 10% annually.

His portfolio is filled with giant blue-chips, including Apple (AAPL), Procter & Gamble (PG) and Kraft Foods (KFT).

The average holding has a market capitalization of $64 billion, more than double the average figure for competitors. The giant companies have proved relatively steady performers in downturns.

The fund buys only when stocks sell for a 10% discount to their fair values. Proceeding carefully, Canakaris has excelled in hard times. During the collapse of 2008, Aston/Montag outdid 95% of peers.

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Stan Luxenberg is a freelance writer specializing in mutual funds and investing. He was executive editor of Individual Investor magazine.
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