It's been a tough year for tech funds, except those that have ridden the new New Tech stocks.
Just a few years ago, it was so simple. Most tech funds bet big on companies that were in or around the PC biz like
-- three of tech's vaunted four horsemen, with the fourth being networking titan
But times and investors' tastes have changed. Those PC and PC-related shops are looking like slow-growing blue chips, earning the Old Tech tag from money managers. And in the tech world there's nothing good about being called old. Now the pros are more excited by faster-growing tech shops that depend on the Internet -- network builders like Cisco or
or software concerns like
or server companies like
much-ballyhooed shift hasn't been pretty. Microsoft and Dell are each down more than 40% this year. The tech-laden
is still hovering in the neighborhood of a 20% loss and
TheStreet.com Internet Index
has lost more than half its value.
Still, tech funds have a fat long-term lead on other funds and the
, so avoiding the sector is, to say the least, a bold move. Most investors already have plenty of tech exposure -- the average growth fund has a tech weighting of more than 40% these days -- but if you still feel like you don't have enough tech exposure, we've singled out some funds you might consider.
We've sifted the category for those funds that beat their average peer over the last one- and three-year periods and listed the top 10, ranked by their one-year return. We've also built a combined portfolio of the 10 leading funds and created an intriguing cumulative top-10 holdings list that's noticeably light on the PC crowd.
The fund that jumps out at you is no-load
Firsthand Technology Value, run by tech guru Kevin Landis. The fund's 48.8% five-year annualized return beats every fund under the sun and smokes the S&P 500 by more than 28 percentage points. The fund has kept the beat going, but a lingering question is whether Landis is spreading himself a bit thin. His firm now has six funds and he's got a hand in running all of them. Still, you can't knock his record.
Two funds with more aggressive styles than Landis that have solid track records too are no-load
PBHG Technology & Communications and the broker-sold
Pimco Innovation fund. Just about all of these funds focus primarily on big-caps, but if you're fishing for more small- and mid-cap exposure, your best bet might be
Icon Information Technology, which had only some 7% of its assets in large-cap stocks at the end of the second quarter.
When we look at the stocks that have driven these funds to the top, there's a clearly discernable Net-centric theme where each of these top picks either builds networks or helps them run more smoothly. Instead of software titan Microsoft, we find rival
. These funds are, on average, making bigger bets on networkers
than "must own" rival Cisco Systems.
Reports like these might eventually help investors sort out the changing of the guard in tech land, or at least work as a decent barometer of the smart money's current sentiment.