Trust isn't a big issue just with voters, as fund investors are discovering this year.
Concepts of portfolio management skill and tenure have been overshadowed by the market's recent record-setting run. After all, for the first time ever the
index posted returns above 20% for five consecutive years (1995 through 1999), and last year the average technology sector fund posted a stunning 135% return -- capping an unprecedented string of 15 consecutive positive years, according to
. The run-up made geniuses of many rookie fund managers who had loaded their funds with mercurial and high-priced stocks. Witness Ryan Jacob's stunning run with the
Kinetics Internet fund.
But that type of upward momentum isn't around anymore. The S&P 500 is off 8.3% this year and the tech-laden
index is down more than 43% since its March 10 peak, according to
. Jacob left Kinetics last year to start the
Jacob Internet fund. It's down a stunning 71% this year.
So let's try to tune out the unhelpful din surrounding the markets these days, and look for some funds you can trust. There are some 500 large-cap U.S. stock funds that have been around for 10 years -- big-cap funds are typically best for core holdings because they entail less risk than those specializing in small- or mid-cap stocks. We screened that brood, looking for funds that have had the same portfolio manager or management team and have beaten their average peer over the last one-, three-, five- and 10-year periods, according to
To make our cut, funds also had to have below-average expenses, an investment minimum below $5,000, be open to new retail investors and have fared better than their average peers in the months when the S&P 500 dropped by at least 3%. Only about 23 qualified.
Let's look at the top-10 U.S. funds first, ranked by their 10-year annualized returns.
All of these funds are worth a look, but they're hardly interchangeable.
Interestingly, this list is dominated by funds using a value investment strategy -- the only growth fund on the list is broker-sold
MSDW American Opportunities.
Value funds are essentially bargain hunters. They typically focus on lower-octane stocks that look cheap relative to their peers or the overall market. Growth funds, on the other hand, tend to focus on stocks of the fastest-growing companies -- often paying steep prices and taking big risks along the way.
While many of these funds might be solid core holdings for your portfolio -- some are more aggressive than others.
Among the aggressive is American Opportunities, where manager Anita Kolleny tends to shift her portfolio energetically. The growth fund's turnover rate --essentially the percentage of the portfolio that has changed over the last year -- is more than 300%, compared with 86% for its average peer.
Clipper fund is aggressive too, since it typically holds only 20 to 25 stocks -- most funds spread their assets among more than 80 stocks to reduce their risk. That said, managers James Gipson, Michael Sandler and Bruce Veaco, who've held the reins since the 1980s, have clearly bet on the right horses. The value fund beats at least 90% of its peers over the last one-, three-, five- and 10-year periods.
Salomon Brothers Opportunity fund also is concentrated, since manager Irving Brilliant (yes, it's his real name) doesn't trade often. The fund's low turnover makes it quite tax-efficient, but does mean that most of the fund's winners appreciate into big positions.
Lower-octane options on our list include the broker-sold
Smith Barney Fundamental Value fund, where John Goode has quietly built a sterling track record since 1990. He spreads the fund among different sectors and market-cap ranges, but that measured approach hasn't held the fund back. It beats 95% of its peers over the last one-, three-, five-, and 10-year periods. It's even keeping that pace this year with a 13.7% gain since Jan. 1.
For another diversified approach, check out the no-load
Vanguard Windsor II. The fund's management team -- led by Jim Barrow -- carries a portfolio of more than 250 stocks, but the fund has still consistently trounced its peers.
Of course, one fund that's missing from this list that's also worthy of your trust is the no-load
Vanguard 500 Index fund, which barely missed our cut. Whether you're putting money to work today or down the road, this list is probably worth hanging on to, since so few of the current choices made it.