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A Safer Way to Hold Foreign Small-Cap Stocks

MFS International New Discovery aims to find businesses that can thrive in good times and bad. Many holdings dominate their niches and face few competitors. The formula has proved particularly effective in downturns. The fund topped competitors by a wide margin in 2008. During the past five years, MFS broke even and topped 93% of competitors.

A holding is Croda International, which makes chemicals used in skin care products. Customers include Procter & Gamble (PG) and L'Oreal. "The chemicals are essential for providing the texture that customers want," says MFS portfolio manager Peter Fruzzetti.

Another holding is Bunzl, a British company that distributes cleaning supplies and take-out food packaging to hotels, supermarkets and food wholesalers. The company has consistently delivered double-digit returns on equity.

Aberdeen Global Small Cap emphasizes companies with predictable earnings. Many holdings are in consumer staples and health care, industries that can report growing earnings year after year. To find businesses with healthy growth, the fund has 36% of its assets in emerging markets, more than double the figure for average competitors.

A big holding is Asia Satellite Telecommunications, a Hong Kong operator of satellites that are used by broadcasters and telecommunications companies.

Despite the sluggish conditions in Europe and the U.S., many consumer companies are continuing to report strong growth in emerging markets, says Osamu Yamagata, an Aberdeen portfolio manager. "In the emerging markets, we are still seeing rises in disposable income and positive GDP growth," he says.

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

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
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