The Daily Screen: The Best Small-Cap Value Funds - TheStreet

Small-cap value funds have gone from playground pushover to bully this year, and the Daily Screen has singled out a few for you to consider.

First things first. These funds typically invest in companies with market caps below $1.5 billion, with valuations that are cheap relative to the market or their industry peers. With low-tech portfolios and modest valuations, these funds can provide solid shelter from the tech-led selling we're seeing these days -- the average

price-to-earnings multiple of the stocks in these funds is around 20, compared with 24.6 for the

S&P 500

.

Over the past few years, investors have been gaga for big-cap growth funds and other tech-heavy fare, leaving these funds out in the cold until this year when valuation-conscious investors started sniffing around these mostly obscure stocks. So far this year, they're the fifth best-performing U.S. stock fund category with a 7.7% gain, compared with the mostly large-cap S&P 500's 6.3% loss.

It's important to keep in mind that these funds might not be one-hit wonders. Before investors' big-cap love affair started in 1995, small-cap value funds beat the S&P 500 in 1991, 1992 and 1993, according to

Morningstar

. If you'd kept a modest amount of your portfolio in this pocket of the market, this year wouldn't have been so painful, so the Daily Screen has singled out 10 funds you might consider.

We've sifted the category for funds that beat their average peers over the past one- and three-year periods and listed the top 10, ranked by their one-year returns. Then we lumped all the leading funds' portfolios together to see what stocks have driven their performance.

First, the funds.

As you can see,

Royce Funds

is a player in this market niche. Charles Royce and his colleagues are steady hands. In addition to the three no-load funds on our list, you might take a look at

Royce Total Return

, which takes a slightly less aggressive approach than the Royce funds on our list. The Total Return fund missed the cut because its returns over the past 12 months narrowly trailed its peers.

In addition, if you're looking for a small-cap value fund you should consider the

Third Avenue Value

fund. Longtime manager Marty Whitman tends to have a big weighting in financial stocks and low turnover, leading to solid returns and tax efficiency. The fund's 25.2% one-year return just missed our cut.

As for the stocks that fueled these funds' returns, it's unlikely you'll recognize many names. Keep in mind as you look over the list, Royce managers' favorites are well represented.

Dan Bernstein contributed to this article.