You couldn't go wrong with "Best Ideas" funds, right?
Actually, like any other group of funds, they're a mixed bag. If you're not familiar with the species, they're typically concentrated stock funds holding what a brokerage or money management shop believes to be the best investments at any given time.
But it seems, despite their catchy concept, they're not much better than most other "run of the mill ideas" funds out there.
Investors had high hopes for the $2.1 billion
PaineWebber Strategy fund, which launched Dec. 2. The fund, run by T. Kirkham Barnaby, picks about 30 stocks from high-profile chief strategist Ed Kerschner's list of highlighted stocks.
The fund hasn't exactly charged out of the gate. Kerschner's picks follow themes and two of his favorites are rising spending by Baby Boomers and growing demand for technology products and services. That's led to sizable bets on retailers like
, down 18.2% and 16.7%, respectively, so far this year. And the fund's top tech holding as of March 31 was embattled software titan
, down 40% since Jan. 1.
Since the start of the year, the fund is down 6.5%, trailing 93% of its large-cap growth peers, according to
MSDW Competitive Edge Best Ideas, a global fund run by Mark Bavoso, has performed a bit better. Bavoso picks 40 stocks recommended in
, a report from
research department. That's led to some winners, like
, up 28% and 27%, respectively, since Jan. 1. But like PaineWebber's fund, Bavoso was also betting on Microsoft and Wal-Mart, according to its year-end portfolio.
Launched in 1998, the large-cap growth fund is up 19.1% over the past year, which is about average for global funds, according to Morningstar.
An intriguing Best Ideas fund for less aggressive investors might be
Prudential 20/20 Focus. The large-cap blend fund holds the top 20 picks from growth manager Sig Segalas, best-known for running
Harbor Capital Appreciation , and value manager Tom Jackson, who runs
Prudential Equity. Blending value and growth picks gives the fund a lower-octane portfolio, but its 15.8% return over 12 months beats three-quarters of its large-cap blend peers, according to Morningstar.
Some Best Ideas have been bested by funds not helmed by big names. Since Jan. 1, these three Best Ideas funds trail
Putnam Research and
MFS Research, where analysts are primarily in charge. And the entire industry should be humbled by
StockJungle.com's Community Intelligence
fund, where managers pick stocks from a pool of amateur analysts' suggestions. Since Jan. 1, the tech-heavy fund is up 25.5%, ranking 19th out of the more than 8,000 funds in Lipper's database.
Amerindo Holds Firm on B2B Fund Launches, Biotech
It's a gutsy call.
Business-to-business Internet and biotech stocks are way down this year, so you'd understand if New York-based
Amerindo Investment Advisors
put the brakes on plans to launch two funds focusing on each volatile sector May 30. But they're going to launch them anyway.
Portfolio manager Alberto Vilar, who has been running tech and biotech accounts for institutional investors since the early 1980s, declined to comment. But a person close to the situation says the firm is going ahead with the funds because Vilar believes both sectors will be a good long-term investment, despite their recent selloff. He has already proven prescient once in recent weeks: In unveiling plans for the two funds on March 3, he predicted the sectors' recent correction at a press conference.
And that selloff has been steep. Since the
Nasdaq Composite Index
peaked on March 10, Merrill Lynch's
, an exchange-traded portfolio of 18 B2B stocks, is down a stunning 62%. Over the same time period, the
American Stock Exchange Biotechnology Index
is down more than 29%.
Amerindo's highflying flagship
Technology fund has felt that pain. The aggressive Net fund posted a 249% return last year, beating 96% of its tech peers, according to Morningstar. But this year's losses have eroded many of those gains. Over the past 12 months, the $500 million fund is up 23.7%, but since Jan. 1 it's down 28.5%, trailing nearly every tech fund.
Investors might be cool to the idea of investing in the two decimated sectors, but if they don't already have a tech or biotech fund and they believe in the sectors, one fund-watcher says these funds might be a good bet.
"I wouldn't count these guys out. They've been running this kind of investment for a long time and they obviously see something there," says Scott Cooley, the Morningstar analyst who covers the Amerindo's Technology fund.
Still, Cooley advises investors not to dedicate more than 5% of their portfolio to funds focusing on these volatile sectors.
Fund Directors Averaged 9% Pay Boost
Fund directors continued to rake it in. For the second year in a row, directors of mutual fund boards got a 9% pay hike on average, says New York's compensation consultant
. At the same time, the amount of money they oversee rose, too, but not by nearly as much, says C. Meyrick Payne, a partner with the firm, which released its most recent survey of trustees' pay.
Directors at fund companies with assets of more than $25 billion earned $75,000 for their services. Those at complexes with less than $1 billion, received a much more modest $8,000 compensation.
Payne says directors deserve the bigger payout because they have stepped-up responsibilities. Directors have come under fire in recent years for their lack of independence from the mutual fund management. The
Securities and Exchange Commission
has heightened pressure to have more outside directors on fund boards. As a result, trustees have had increased oversight responsibilities, Payne says.
That may be so, but even Payne says the average director pulls in $500 an hour.
Management Practice also found that more fund complexes are instituting mandatory retirement policies. Still, trustees are on average 62 years old and overwhelmingly male, Payne says. But watch for that to change as fund companies replace them with younger women, he says.