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Mutual Funds That Can Survive Downturns

American Beacon Holland Large Cap Growth returned 6.9% annually during the last five years, outdoing the average large growth fund by 2 percentage points. The fund favors companies that can deliver double-digit earnings growth.

Portfolio manager Monica Walker is willing to pay a bit more for high-quality companies with strong earnings growth. But she steers away from the most expensive high-flyers that some aggressive growth managers crave. "We take a conservative approach to growth investing," she says.

One holding is Qualcomm (QCOM), which licenses software to fast-growing makers of wireless phones. While the company's sales and earnings have been growing at annual rates of more than 20%, the shares only command a forward P/E ratio of 13.

Walker also likes Visa (V). The company has been reporting strong growth as the volume of credit-card transactions increases around the globe. "It is hard to find companies the size of Visa that can grow revenues at double-digit rates," Walker says.

Morningstar lists ASTON/TAMRO as a large growth fund, but the portfolio managers follow a wide-ranging approach. The portfolio includes some dominant growth stocks as well as troubled value stocks that seem poised to turn around.

The diversified approach has helped the fund thrive in a variety of market conditions. During the past five years, ASTON/Tamro returned 6.5% annually, compared to 4.9% for the S&P 500.

The fund has scored big gains with Toll Brothers (TOL), a leading homebuilder that has surged along with the revival of housing markets.

Portfolio manager Tim Holland began buying the shares during the first quarter of 2012. At the time, he figured that housing markets were bottoming. Toll Brothers seemed to be the best way to play a recovery because the company had come through the downturn in relatively good shape.

Holland says that the company will find ways to increase profit margins as the housing revival continues. "Toll Brothers will add amenities to its houses and raise prices," he says.

Another holding is Monsanto (MON), the agricultural giant that sells seeds and herbicides. The company is spending heavily on research and development. That should enable Monsanto to continue expanding around the globe as farmers seek to increase their output.

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

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