Mid-cap growth funds are supposed to be one of your portfolio's roaring engines, but big tech bets have conked many out over the last year. That said, some are purring along quite nicely.
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Big-Cap Growth Funds
Saturday Screen Roundup
The average mid-cap growth fund has 40% of its money in tech stocks, almost twice the sector's weighting in the
, according to
. That helped these funds trounce the market when tech had the wind at its back. In 1999 the average mid-cap growth fund, which typically focuses on stocks of fast-growing companies with market capitilizations between $2 billion and $9 billion, rang up a 65.2% gain, lapping the S&P 500 three times.
But with the tech-laden
down more than 50% over the last year, the average mid-cap growth fund is down more than 17%.
Middling of Late
Source: Morningstar. Annualized performance figures through Feb. 27.
Despite their recent malaise, there's good reason not to ignore these funds. After all, they do beat the market over the last 10 years and a diversified U.S. stock portfolio would have 10% of its money in mid-cap growth stocks, using the
Wilshire 5000 Total Stock Market Index
as a benchmark.
Plus, if a fund is reasonably successful at finding mid-cap stocks that will grow into big-caps, it can earn above-market returns. A $5,000 investment in the hot-selling
Fidelity Mid-Cap Growth fund five years ago, for instance, would've been worth $14,683 on Jan. 31, according to Morningstar. The same investment in the
Vanguard 500 Index fund, which tracks the S&P 500, would've grown to a little less than $12,000.
If you're looking for a mid-cap growth fund, the
has done a little homework for you. We screened for mid-cap growth funds that beat their average peers over the past one- and three-year time periods and carry expenses below the category's 1.55% average expense ratio. Then we removed funds that have investment minimums above $10,000 or managers who've been at the helm for fewer than three years. Of the funds that made our cut, here is a top-10 list, ranked by their three-year annualized returns.
As you might expect, these funds didn't gorge themselves at the tech buffet as much as their peers and that's what propelled them over the last year. On average, these 10 funds have 31% of their money in tech stocks, proving that they are growth funds but not closet tech funds some of their battered peers. Let's see whom we have, starting at the top.
Bridgeway Aggressive Growth fund is a bit of an oddball here. For starters, it's not really a mid-cap fund with only about 5% of its money in mid-cap stocks, according to its most recent portfolio report. The fund gets a mid-cap label from Morningstar because its small- and big-cap focus averages out to a portfolio with a mid-cap median market capitalization.
Manager John Montgomery runs the fund using four different all-cap quantitative screening models that churn buy and sell signals on stocks of different size companies. The fund does beat at least three-quarters of its peers over the last one-, three- and five-year periods, but given its dubious classification, that's probably an apples-to-oranges comparison.
Artisan Mid Cap fund might be a better fit for style purists, with 78% of its money in mid-cap stocks at the end of January. Manager Andy Stephens has run the fund since its 1997 inception, charting a more price-conscious course than many of his peers. Unlike those who pay high prices for fast-growing companies, he focuses on companies whose stock prices are low given his estimates of their future cash flows.
The approach might not shine in a go-go market, illustrated by the fund's high but category-lagging 57% gain in 1999. But the fund beats at least 90% of its peers over the last one- and three-year periods.
One fund that managed to make our list with an above-average tech weighting is the broker-sold
MFS Mid Cap Growth fund, where Mark Regan has held the reins since 1993, with David E. Sette-Ducati joining him as a co-manager last year. Rather than use rigid screens, the pair focuses on stock picking in the small- and mid-cap ponds with the help of the Boston shops' analysts.
Those picks are looking pretty prescient right now. Despite a 47% tech weighting at the end of last year, the fund tops at least 80% of its peers over the past one-, three- and five-year periods.
There are plenty of solid funds that didn't make our top-10 list for one reason or another and it would be wrong to not at least mention a few. The no-load
Vanguard Capital Opportunity fund, which is run by three managers at Primecap Management, is one of the category's gems. The trio looks for companies with solid burgeoning growth and a sagging stock price. The thoughtful approach is hard to knock as the fund's 38.7% annualized gain over the last three years tops all of its peers. Alas, the fund is closed to new investors.
Another solid fund that merits mention is the broker-sold
Calamos Growth fund, run by John Calamos and John Calamos, Jr.. This fund also takes a measured approach to growth, and its 34.8% five-year annualized gain beats all its peers. If you'd like to learn more about their approach,
check out this interview with John Sr. from the end of last year.
What kept the fund off our list? It's the steep 2% expense ratio. And why isn't the hot-selling Fidelity Mid-Cap Growth fund on our roster? Manager David Felman has only been at the helm since August 1999.
If you'd like to know what stocks propelled the funds that are on our list, look no further. We mushed the 10 funds' portfolios together and sorted a list of their cumulative top-10 holdings. In a market this ugly, it's an eclectic list, including stocks of companies that write code (
), build power plants (
) and make shoes (