(Story updated to note that Pepsi plans to cut its workforce by 3%, even as its fourth-quarter earnings rose 3.7%.)
BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Many of the most highly rated mutual funds sought solace and safety in conservative large-company stocks last year as the European sovereign debt crisis dragged on.
Morningstar, the mutual-fund and stock-rating firm, regularly tracks the top holdings and portfolio changes of 26 of its highly rated funds run by veteran managers, including Donald Yacktman's Yacktman Fund (YACKX), Bruce Berkowitz's Fairholme Fund (FAIRX), William Browne's Tweedy, Browne Value (TWEBX) and Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B - Get Report), a holding company.
Morningstar comes up with a short list of the most widely held stocks of the 26 funds and then whittles it down using its own stock ratings to end up with a portfolio of 10 stocks for what it calls the "ultimate stock pickers."The stocks in the latest list have one thing in common: They're mega-cap stocks with market values ranging from ConocoPhillips' (COP - Get Report) $96 billion, on up to Exxon Mobil's (XOM - Get Report) $400 billion. The 10 stocks also include a number of reliable consumer-goods providers, including Wal-Mart (WMT - Get Report), Procter & Gamble (PG), Pepsi (PEP) and Coca-Cola (KO - Get Report). So the 10 stocks are all ultra-conservative picks and it seems clear these funds were trying to minimize downside risk well into the fourth quarter as the sovereign debt crisis raged, and there was lots of doom and gloom in the air at home. Such stodginess may be why many of these stocks are lagging the S&P 500's 7.7% gain this year. Here, then, are 10 stocks that are the most popular with the 26 funds that make up the "ultimate stock pickers" team, per Morningstar, in inverse order of the number of funds in the group that hold them: