When it comes to consistently beating the
, the successor to Legg Mason's legendary Bill Miller is likely to have a foreign accent -- or at least an investment focus outside the U.S.
As the door mercifully closed on 2008, TheStreet.com Ratings parsed its database of stock mutual funds for any that have outperformed the S&P 500 total-return index during each of the past 10 calendar years. Only a quartet of internationally focused funds, listed in the accompanying table, passed the test.
International funds tended to fall out of favor in 2008, especially late in the year when a surprisingly rejuvenated U.S. dollar muted their already lackluster returns. But the four open-end stock funds belwo held on to respective performances, albeit negative, that bested the S&P 500 for the year. That was sufficient to beat all other open-end stock funds in consistency of besting the popular market gauge.
With two broad-based international funds, an Asian investment vehicle and a European-focused portfolio, the list offers wide international diversification for those willing to venture abroad with their investments.
Columbia International Value Fund
is 51% invested in the U.K. and Western Europe, with 31% of its assets in Japan and 8% each in Asia, excluding Japan, and Latin America.
The other broad-based international fund on the list, the
First Eagle Overseas Fund
, is 28% committed to the U.K. and Western Europe, with 29% of its holdings in Japan, 13% in Asia ex Japan and only 2% in Latin America.
SGOVX's 20.97% retreat in 2008 was considerably milder than the 36.81% pounding suffered by the S&P. It was the fund's only losing year over the past decade.
Matthews Asian Growth & Income Fund
has 26% of its portfolio committed to Hong Kong-domiciled investments, 13% in Singapore, 9% in Taiwan, 5% in South Korea and only 5% in the long-suffering Japanese market.
MACSX has managed to post positive annual returns for nine of the past 10 calendar years, even managing to keep its holders in the black during the 2000-02 bear market.
Mutual European Fund
concentrates its investments in the U.K. and Western Europe, with 18% of its holdings in France and 17 in Germany.
Although the four funds on the list deserve accolades for their consistency in outpacing the S&P, they are still each at least four years away from matching Bill Miller's signal achievement of besting the gauge for 14 consecutive years with his stewardship of the
Legg Mason Value Trust
. Each of the four funds in the table lagged the S&P 500 in calendar 1998, meaning that the books must close on the year 2012 before any of the four funds can hope to match Miller's streak, which ended three years ago.
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.