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Funds That Buy 'Old Tech'

What's old is cool again. Or maybe I should say, hot.

Yes, seems everyone is talking "old tech" again. You know, not the dot-coms, but the Ciscos (CSCO). (How telling is it that we call stocks that have been around for more than two years "old"?) And in that company's case, with plenty of good reason. As Cramer declared on "The Street.com" on Fox News Channel last weekend -- before the networker surprised Wall Street with another quarter of better-than-expected earnings -- this is not a "could'a-would'a-should'a" stock. You know, the "I could'a and should'a bought it way back when, but it's much too expensive now." It's one to pick up for the long term, even after an amazing run-up.

Which fund managers have proved that they know that older can be better? What are some long-term top-performing funds with a sizable stake in old-tech names? I asked ace Morningstar researcher Annette Larson to help me crunch the numbers.

I wanted strong long-term performing funds with double-digit asset allocations (measured by percent of assets in those stocks) to Intel (INTC), Cisco, Dell (DELL) and Microsoft (MSFT).

Yep, I know that Dell and Mister Softee are a bit more controversial than the other two: They haven't enjoyed the same exuberance on Wall Street as Cisco and Intel recently, but most of the people I talk with think they haven't seen the last of their highs.

Here are a few funds that stand out, representing styles that range from aggressive to conservative.

  • (FSPTX)Fidelity Select Technology

    Yes, a sector fund, and you know how I feel about those in general. (Diversified funds with managers who can jump in and out nimbly are better bets than funds restricted to one particular industry.) And yes, its manager just left this week. Fidelity has a penchant for putting its managers of the Select series through the revolving door. But the fund firm's stunning research bench is behind this fund's notable short- and long-term numbers.

    And very timely moves out of Internet names before they slumped last year and back in when they started accelerating again demonstrate some nice plays within the sector.

    The fund is less aggressive than many of its peers, and that shows in last year's returns. While 137% is surely nothing to sneeze at, it's still well below the returns of many of the category's highest highfliers. But Select Technology has a full quarter of its portfolio in Cisco, Intel, Dell and Microsoft and tends to be less volatile than its nothing-but-Net rivals. It remains to be seen whether a new manager will change that, but I'm betting on the bench.

  • (VWUSX)Vanguard U.S. Growth

    Wow. Talk about jumping from aggressive to conservative. It's hard to mention Fidelity Select funds and Vanguard U.S. Growth in the same breath, much less in the same list. And you may well ask what I'm thinking including a fund that barely eked out a 22% return last year, falling far behind its large-growth competitors.

    But this low-cost pick specializes in sturdy growers. Just take a look at its top holdings. Besides Cisco, Microsoft and Intel, you'll find blue-chip General Electric (GE). If you really want to avoid the stomach-churning ride the dot-coms offer but still want a strong taste of tech, this strong management team may be the ticket. Consider yourself warned, however: You won't likely get the kick of a higher-octane tech fund in good times, even if you are better protected during the tough ones.

  • The Oaks ( (WOGSX)White Oak Growth and (ROGSX)Red Oak Technology Select)

    Can't talk old tech without looking to the Oaks. The slow-trading but fast-growing Oak Associates have long been big fans. (Manager Jim Oelschlager bought Cisco when it went public and has ridden it to chart-topping returns in his more-diversified White Oak ever since.) Red Oak Technology Select has nearly a quarter of its holdings in those four, and White Oak isn't far behind.

    It shows. Even though Red Oak has only been around for a year and change, it's been a category beater all along, delivering more than 140% last year. And in this year's market mayhem, it's churning out nearly 20% or so in just a month and a half.

    Brenda Buttner's column, Under the Hood, appears Thursdays. At time of publication, Buttner owned shares of the White Oak Growth fund, although holdings can change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks or funds. While she cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, Buttner appreciates your feedback at TSCBrenda@aol.com.
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