It's report card time on Wall Street.
Companies are reporting their second-quarter earnings these days, and in many cases, we'll probably see the market prove an old saw: Rising earnings and a positive outlook send a stock's price up, and vice versa.
If a company's earnings grow at an impressive clip relative to its peers, and those earnings are expected to stay healthy, investors tend to feel more confident about the company's financial well-being and prospects. That makes them more likely to buy shares than sell them, and often sends the stock's price up. When a company loses money and makes less than expected, investors tend to dump the shares, sending the stock's price down.
In honor of earnings season, this week's
sifts the large-cap growth category for outperformers that have owned fast-growing companies. To make the cut, a fund had to have beaten its peers since Jan. 1, as well as over the past one- and three-year time periods. It also had to have a portfolio whose stocks, on average, boasted at least a 30% annualized earnings-growth rate over the past three years, and a manager who'd been in place for at least that long. Here are the six that cleared those hurdles, ranked by their year-to-date return.
First off, keep in mind that these funds are aggressive. After all, they often have to pay high prices for companies with this kind of earnings growth. Each of these funds' portfolios sports an average price-to-earnings ratio of more than 40, compared with 28.1 for the
, according to
It's also important to remember that a portfolio of stocks with a high three-year average earnings-growth figure alone doesn't guarantee boffo returns for a fund. A fund might buy fast growers as they're slowing down, essentially sporting an expensive portfolio that's poised to dip. That's not the case with the funds on our list, though.
Let's start at the top, shall we?
Smith Barney Aggressive Growth is a gem. Richard Freeman has held the reins since 1983, and has beaten more than 90% of his large-cap growth peers over the past one-, three-, five- and 10-year periods. The fund's 21.8% 10-year annualized return beats 90% of its peers and leads the S&P 500 by 4 percentage points.
He's gotten those results by buying small- and mid-caps sporting at least 20% earnings growth, and holding them as they bloom into large-caps. He first bought No. 2 pick
back in the 1980s. Other top picks are industrial conglomerate
and pharmaceutical concerns
Freeman's tiny 8% turnover rate makes this one of the most tax-efficient funds around, delivering more than 95% of its gains after taxes over the last 10 years, according to
. If there's a concern, it might be his 36% health care stake, which could hurt the fund if the sector sinks.
Fellow broker-sold funds
AIM Select Growth and
Putnam New Opportunities have big bets, too, but they're on technology stocks, in which up to half the funds' assets have been invested.
AIM Select Growth lead manager Jonathan Schooler, who has held the reins since 1994, essentially picks his favorites from among AIM's other stock funds. That's worked out well, as illustrated by the fund's 27.1% five-year annualized return, which beats the S& P 500 by 3 percentage points and leads nearly 70% of the fund's peers.
Putnam New Opportunities has recently reopened this fund, which focused on small- and mid-caps when lead manager Dan Miller launched it in 1990. It's gone through some growing pains over the years but seems to have found its feet in the large-cap growth category now. Miller and his co-managers focus on fast-growing companies in fast-growing industries, such as
, which led to a 52% tech weighting at the end of June.
That high-octane approach has led to a 31.4% annualized return over the past five years, beating 91% of large-cap growth funds and the S&P 500 by more than 7 percentage points.
Like the Smith Barney fund,
Jundt Opportunity likes health care. Co-managers James and Marcus Jundt, who've run the fund since its inception at the start of 1997, had almost 40% of the fund invested in health care stocks like
at the end of the first quarter. They take a concentrated approach, with fewer than 50 stocks and more than 40% of the fund's assets invested in their top 10.
Over the past three years, the fund's 37.8% annualized return beats the S&P 500 by more than 18 percentage points.
Our list has only one no-load option, but at least it's from a name you know:
Fidelity Retirement Growth.
Despite its name, the Fido fund is hardly sleepy. Manager Fergus Shiel, who's been at the helm since 1996, is clearly a good choice if you're playing catch-up in the retirement investing game. At the end of June, he had 58% of the fund invested in tech stocks like
, and sported a 310% turnover rate.
His fast-trading, tech-heavy approach has led to a 34.6% annualized return over the last three years, trouncing the S&P 500 by more than 15 percentage points. You might want to hold the fund in an IRA or other tax-deferred account where you won't have to worry about the tax consequences of all that trading.
Another no-load option you might want to consider is
Invesco Blue Chip Growth, which apparently missed the cut because Doug McEldowney joined Trent May as the fund's co-manager last year. The pair's focus on fast-growing big-caps has led to a tech-heavy portfolio and solid returns over the past five years.
So there you have it, a short list of large-cap funds that are long on earnings growth.