(Story updated to add that Regeneron raised its 2012 sales outlook for its leading product, Eylea.)
BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Equity mutual funds aren't doing much better than the benchmark index this year when fees are added. That's after a disappointing 2011, when the average U.S. stock fund lost investors money. But taking a peek at the top holdings of this year's better-performing, highly rated funds narrows down the superior investment ideas.
And that may be the best way to use mutual funds, as investing in them can prove to be costly. The average return for the almost 9,400 domestic equity funds tracked by Morningstar is 10% this year, versus the S&P 500's 8.3% gain. Last year the same group fell 2.5% versus the 2.1% increase for the benchmark.
And that's why they're losing ground to exchange traded funds. Investors pulled $135 billion from domestic stock mutual funds in 2011, the fifth straight year of withdrawals, according to the Investment Company Institute. But that's not to say that many U.S. stock funds aren't worth their fees. We screened for top-performing, actively-managed, diverse, domestic mutual funds that have at least a three-star rating from Morningstar and assets of at least $1 billion to see what their best performers are. We chose five funds, including large-cap and mid-cap funds, that fit the bill with returns of 13.6% to 20% this year, and then culled their portfolios for some of their best performers. The funds are: the $10 billion, large-cap growth fund Wells Fargo Advantage Growth Investor (SGROX), which is up 13.6% this year and has a five-star Morningstar rating, its highest; the $40 billion, large-cap growth fund Fidelity Growth Company ( FDGRX ), with a return of 14.3% and five stars from Morningstar; the $2 billion large-cap growth fund Touchstone Sands Capital Capital Select Growth (TSNCX), up 15.3% and has a four-star rating from Morningstar; the $6 billion Artisan Mid-Cap Fund (ARTMX), up 16.6% and with a four-star Morningstar rating; and the $1.2 billion Hotchkis and Wiley Mid-Cap Value Fund (HWMIX), up 20% and with a three-star rating from Morningstar. It's no surprise that most large-cap funds, and many in other categories, have iPad and iPhone maker Apple (AAPL) as a top pick, so that won't be included in the stocks summarized below. Here are 15 stocks that are big winners for five mutual funds this year, with three coming from each, ranked in inverse order of their returns: