Emerging markets funds are getting whacked this year, but if you're looking for some diversification from the U.S. market and don't mind a hefty dollop of risk, they might be worth a look.
This pack of aggressive funds primarily invests in stocks of companies based in Latin America and Asia, and is the international fund category's equivalent of a home-run swing. The funds can post huge gains; the average emerging markets fund gained 72% last year. These funds also provide diversification because many of the smaller companies in these markets don't tend to rise and fall with U.S. stocks.
That said, these funds invest in some fairly shaky markets. For instance, the average emerging markets fund finished the year down five times during the 1990s. Even after last year's steep gains -- coming on the heels of two down years -- these funds' returns don't compare well with the U.S. market, trailing the
over the last one-, five-, and 10-year periods, according to
Still, if you like the idea of investing in these markets and are willing to put a modest portion of your portfolio in an emerging markets fund, we've come up with some possibilities.
Here's a list of 10 funds that beat their average peer over the last one- and three-year periods, ranked by their one-year returns. This time period includes good years like 1999 and tough years like 1998 and 1997, so there are some survivors here.
At the top, Rajeev Bhaman's value-conscious and small-cap taste helped the little-known broker-sold
Oppenheimer Developing Markets fund outpace the pack. Keep in mind, however, that he built this record with a fairly modest asset base. That said, Bhaman's approach has led to lower volatility than his peers.
Another price-conscious fund with low relative volatility is the broker-sold
Glenmeade Emerging Markets fund. Two funds that blend value and growth stocks in their portfolios -- and that have hit fewer bumps than their peers -- are the no-load
T. Rowe Price Emerging Markets fund and the no-load
American Century Emerging Markets fund.
Another value-oriented fund that isn't on our list because its one-year return didn't crack the top-10 is the broker-sold
Pioneer Emerging Markets fund. A more growth-oriented fund whose one-year return also missed the cut is
Pilgrim Emerging Countries
Finally, we'd be remiss not to mention broker-sold
Templeton Developing Markets, run by high-profile manager Mark Mobius. He's in a slump these days, but his value strategy has posted big returns in the past.
Dan Bernstein contributed to this article.