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Just a few months ago most investors wouldn't even consider buying mutual funds focused on sleepy financials and consumer staples. Now they are the among the few domestic stock funds that managed to eke out a gain in the past month.


re-emergence of financial sector funds has been apparent since the

Nasdaq Composite

peaked on March 10. But after last week's turbulence, the picture is becoming clearer: The comeback of financials extends beyond the big banks and brokers to insurance companies and mortgage lenders.

And funds whose focus is real-world, as opposed to virtual, are also doing well. Many of these funds are positioned to benefit from growing global consumer demand, for the simple things in life, like food and shelter.

Here are the top 15 funds since the tech-heavy Nasdaq topped out on March 10, excluding funds that primarily short stocks -- since they're expected to soar when prices tank. (Tune in to Tuesday's

Dear Dagen

for more on short funds.)

Five of these top 15 are financial services funds, including top dog


Century Shares.

Financials have been down for more than a year, which means these funds are in the red on a 12-month basis. But some pros think the market's recent turn from frothy tech stocks to value stocks -- and financial stocks in particular -- could last for a while if the economy slows a bit and interest rates don't go much higher.

"It might be choppy, but financials could be good for the next one or two years. I think they've seen a bottom," says Sylvester Marquardt, Research Director at

John Hancock Funds

. The

TheStreet Recommends

(FRBAX) - Get JHancock Regional Bank A Report

John Hancock Regional Bank fund is up more than 14% since March 10 and just missed our list. The fund is down just under 26% over the past year through Friday's close.

Of course, not all of the financial funds on the list are the same. It includes funds that focus on insurance stocks (Century Shares/

(FSPCX) - Get Fidelity Select Insurance Report

Fidelity Select Insurance), bank stocks (

(FSRBX) - Get Fidelity Select Banking Report

Fidelity Select Banking) and mortgage lenders (

(FSVLX) - Get Fidelity Select Fintech Report

Fidelity Select Home Finance).


Kemper-Dreman Financial Services, run by value veteran David Dreman, has a broader exposure to leading large-cap financial stocks.

Beyond these funds there are also some value funds that have a big crush on financial stocks. The best-known of the bunch is

(SEQUX) - Get Sequoia Fund Report

Sequoia, which has been closed to new investors since Dec. 23, 1982. Co-managers William Ruane and Robert Goldfarb have a strong taste for financials. They had about 30% of the fund's assets invested in

Warren Buffet's

holding company

Berkshire Hathaway

(BRK.A) - Get Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Class A Report

, and 92% of total assets in financials on June 30, the most recent portfolio data available, according to



Like Buffett, the managers follow a low-turnover style focusing on companies with solid balance sheets and strong franchises. The fund's only two non-financial holdings are gun-maker

Sturm, Ruger

(RGR) - Get Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. Report




. That usually bulletproof strategy led to a 16.5% loss last year and a rock-bottom return in the large-cap value category.

Another financial-sector fund with a value label is


Vontobel U.S. Value. Manager Edwin Walczak had more than 70% of the fund in financial stocks on Sept. 30, the most recent data available.

Beyond financials are a smattering of funds that focus on consumer staples.

(FDFAX) - Get Fidelity Select Consumer Staples Report

Fidelity Select Food & Agriculture, for instance, bets on people eating, drinking beer and smoking. The fund's top holdings on March 31 were





(BUD) - Get Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV Report



(MCD) - Get McDonald's Corporation Report


Philip Morris

(MO) - Get Altria Group Inc Report

. Most of these stocks are underwater for the year after Friday's sell-off, but they're outperforming the likes of


(MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation Report

, which has lost more than 26% since March 10.

Like Fidelity Select Home Finance,

(FSHOX) - Get Fidelity Select Const & Housing Report

Select Construction & Housing bets on people buying houses, with a more hands-on approach. Among the fund's top holdings on March 31 were building materials sellers


(LOW) - Get Lowe's Companies, Inc. Report


Home Depot

(HD) - Get Home Depot, Inc. Report

, as well as old-school equipment and appliance-makers like


(CAT) - Get Caterpillar Inc. Report



(DE) - Get Deere & Company Report

, and


(WHR) - Get Whirlpool Corporation Report

. Once again, these stocks aren't highfliers, but they haven't fallen as hard as dot-coms either.

(FSCHX) - Get Fidelity Select Chemicals Report

Fidelity Select Chemicals has



in its' top ten -- a rare winner in today's rocky market. Even after Friday's debacle, the conglomerate was up more than 50% for the year.

What about


Hilliard Lyons Growth? How has a growth fund survived the Nasdaq's meltdown? It's not really a growth fund. Instead of focusing on tech stocks, like most funds with a growth label, the fund has focused on financials and industrials like insurer

Cincinnati Financial

(CINF) - Get Cincinnati Financial Corporation Report

and Harley-Davidson, up 25.4% and 18.7% since Jan. 1, respectively.

Of course, the question remains: Can financials, food companies, home-builders and motorcycle-makers keep outpacing sexy tech stocks?

Here's a case for it: Investors might be reducing their growth expectations for maturing tech companies, like PC-makers, and rationalizing their expectations of dot-coms, many of which may go bust before they make a nickel.

Instead, some might be beginning to expect slower economic growth at home and faster growth abroad. Slower growth here could stave off more rate hikes, which is good for financials. And strong global growth can be good for old-school companies that sell basic goods like steel, paper, and aluminum, says Hancock's Marquardt.

Ron Roge, a financial planner based in Bohemia, NY., says investors should just ignore the value-or-growth question and keep a position in both at all times.

"We always keep a foothold in both camps. I use


Excelsior Value and Restructuring for large-cap value exposure," he says, noting that he hasn't gotten a call from a skittish client all day Monday.

Apparently, investors are warming to value funds. Given Sequoia's strong long-term record and recent run-up, a rash of offers from investors offering to pay dearly for shares of the closed fund have once again popped up on Internet message boards over the past two weeks.