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A Growth Fund Thriving in Volatile Markets

While stock prices are currently at moderate levels, earnings growth is robust. Last year corporate earnings grew 15%, and analysts expect more strong performance this year. Baron says that his fund's stocks are doing much better than average. Last year their earnings grew 20%, and the fund expects to see a 15% increase in 2012.

Baron argues that the strong growth in his portfolio can continue in coming years. He points to the healthy outlook for holdings such as Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS), which has been in the portfolio since 2004. The chain has 486 stores in 44 states. The company opened 36 locations last year, and plans to open 40 for 2012. Baron says the total number of stores can double as the chain takes market share from smaller competitors. Dick's is reporting rapid growth of its Internet business.

Another longtime holding is Mettler-Toledo International (MTD), which makes scales and precision instruments that are used in laboratories and food retailers. Earnings in the most recent increased by 14%. The company is expanding its business in China.

Last year Baron bought United Natural Foods (UNFI), a distributor of natural and organic groceries. The company is a low-cost leader in a fast-growing market. In the latest quarter, sales increased 15%. Customers include big chains such as Whole Foods (WFM) as well as local health food stores. Baron argues that United Natural Foods can continue growing as more consumers emphasize healthy foods and mainstream grocery chains increase their sales of organic foods.

At the time of publication the author had no holdings in the stocks mentioned.

Stock quotes in this article: PENN, UA, DKS, MTD, UNFI, WFM 
Stan Luxenberg is a freelance writer specializing in mutual funds and investing. He was executive editor of Individual Investor magazine. He has no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

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