If consistency of performance is an important criterion for picking an equity mutual fund, 2008 isn't going to give you much to choose from, as it doesn't look like any stock fund will end the year with a respectful string of positive annual returns.
But some equity and stock-bond "hybrid" funds have great chances of celebrating the new year with 10-year streaks of beating the S&P 500 total-return index.
The five funds in the accompanying table have bested the S&P's performance in each of the past nine calendar years and, although in negative territory, still remain ahead of the popular market gauge for the first 10 months of 2008. If they can maintain their leads over the benchmark for the remainder of the year, they will be members of an exclusive club of funds that has outperformed the S&P 500 for each of 10 consecutive calendar years.
If one of the funds on the list, the
First Eagle Overseas Fund
, can somehow achieve the heroic task of overcoming a 25.75% year-to-date deficit in the remaining weeks of 2008, it will be able to boast 10 consecutive years of positive performance.
The remarkable First Eagle fund stresses the importance of global diversification in achieving superior consistency of performance. SGOVG and the
Mutual European Fund
direct their investments entirely outside the U.S. while two other funds in the table, the
BlackRock Global Allocation Fund
Mutual Discovery Fund
, invest in the U.S. as well as internationally.
The globally focused BlackRock fund has major positions in some major U.S. blue chips, including
Burlington Northern Santa Fe
. It offsets them with a position in the
iShares Russell 2000 Index ETF
First Eagle Overseas, in addition to a holding in physical gold, says it "seeks companies that have financial strength and stability, strong management and fundamental value." Its major stock holdings include
The lone domestic-only fund on the list,
Manning & Napier Pro-Blend Maximum Term Series
, has consistently outperformed the S&P with a portfolio that is now dominated with tech powerhouses such as
. Although classified as a domestic investment fund, EXHAX states that it "may also invest in foreign stocks and ADRs, including those in emerging markets."
The pair of Franklin-Templeton "Mutual" funds in the table are probably not for "socially conscious" investors. The Mutual Discovery fund has major positions in tobacco stocks
Imperial Tobacco Group
British American Tobacco
. Its other "sin" investments include alcoholic beverage firms
The Mutual European Fund also has tobacco exposure, with major holdings in BATS and IMT. It also has positions in
Richard Widows is a senior financial analyst for TheStreet.com Ratings. Prior to joining TheStreet.com, Widows was senior product manager for quantitative analytics at Thomson Financial. After receiving an M.B.A. from Santa Clara University in California, his career included development of investment information systems at data firms, including the Lipper division of Reuters. His international experience includes assignments in the U.K. and East Asia.