If this year has been a wake-up call for growth fund investors, this past week's selloff was like having an air-horn blaring under your pillow.
Things were already bad when we got out of bed Monday morning, with many of last year's tech-heavy highflying funds well underwater. But another round of earnings warnings and violence in the Middle East have made a tough year even worse. From last Thursday to this Thursday, the average large-, mid-, and small-cap growth fund lost more than 8%, according to
. The average telecommunications fund tumbled 12.7%; the average tech fund fell 11.8%.
No one could blame you for ignoring the market these days or starting to investigate lower-octane, core bond funds. But what if you're still a growth investor at heart? This week's
is for you. This week, we sifted the large-, mid-, and small-cap growth fund categories for successful funds that have weathered market dips in the past.
We screened each category for funds that have beaten their average peer since Jan. 1, as well as over the last one-, three-, and five-year periods, according to
. Then we removed the funds that fared worse than their average peer in significant market dips -- defined by Morningstar as months in which the
S&P 500 lost more than 3%. We've singled out the top-five funds in each pack, ranked by their year-to-date return, and we'll consider how they did in 1998's third quarter -- the toughest calendar quarter for growth funds in the last five years.
Oddly, the five top large-cap growth funds we turned up are all broker-sold. Perhaps the most intriguing is the $40.7 billion
Growth Fund of America, the 10th-largest stock fund in the nation. It's managed by quiet giant
The fund's conservative tack -- favoring infrastructure stocks over dot-coms, for instance -- has helped it post
solid risk-adjusted returns. Of the top five, this fund held up best in 1998's third quarter, losing 9.5% compared with more than 12% for the average big-cap growth fund.
Do-it-yourselfers might consider the no-load
Northern Select Equity,
Fidelity Growth Company or
Invesco Blue Chip Growth funds. Each made the cut, but their year-to-date returns didn't rank in the top five.
Among the mid-cap funds we've turned up were a blend of broker-sold and no-load funds. The broker-sold trio --
Seligman Capital, and
Sentinal Mid-Cap Growth -- were all below the category's average 20.6% loss in the third quarter of 1998. The fund that did the best job staying out of the soup was Sentinel Mid-Cap Growth, which gave up just 13.4%.
Among the two no-loads on this list,
Fidelity Mid-Cap Stock and
Bridgeway Aggressive Growth, the Fido fund lost less in the third quarter of 1998 -- 17.2% compared with an above-average 23.3% loss for its competitor. A notable no-load fund that would have made our list if its year-to-date return was higher is
Invesco Dynamics, one of this year's top-selling funds and also one that's consistently beaten its peers over the past 10 years.
At the top of our small-cap growth list, we find what might be called an "extreme" fund. The no-load
Green Century Balanced fund owns high-octane, small-cap stocks and bonds, which made up 25% of the portfolio at the end of August. If you're looking for access to small-cap growth stocks with a bond cushion, you might consider this fund. That said, its bond stake hasn't been a cure-all. It lost 22% in 1998's third quarter, less than the average small-cap growth fund's 25.3% tumble, but still a steep dip.
Wasatch Micro Cap -- currently closed to new investors -- also has a cushion, in the form of a 17% cash stake at the end of last month. The same firm's
Small-Cap Growth fund -- open to new investors -- also made our list. That fund also had a sizable cash stake, 11%, at the end of September. In the third quarter 1998, the Wasatch Micro Cap lost 21.1%; the Small-Cap Growth fell 23.8%.
There you have it -- a short list of growth funds you might want to consider if you're looking for a slightly less bumpy road.