Click here to see Part 1 of today's Big Screen on natural resources funds.
If you're shopping for a natural resources fund, the
has dutifully done some snooping for you.
We sifted the category, looking for funds that beat their average peer over the past one- and three-year periods. Then we tossed out any funds with annual expenses higher than the category's already steep 1.77% average or an investment minimum above $10,000. Here are the 10 funds that made the cut, ranked by their three-year annualized returns, according to
As we said in our primer on the natural resources or energy-fund category, rising demand is raising the prices of natural gas and natural-gas company stocks. That's reflected in this Big Screen, where
Fidelity's Select Natural Gas fund and its
Select Energy Services fund, which both have ample exposure to the natural gas industry, made the cut.
Like most Fido Select funds, managers haven't stuck around for long, but the firm's deep analyst bench has helped the funds put up solid returns.
The Select Natural Gas fund, run by Christian Zann since August 1999, is riding high on the subsector's high returns. It tops at least 90% of its peers over the past one-, three- and five-year periods, according to Morningstar. It has also fallen less than its average peer in down months over the past three years.
The Select Energy Services fund has been a bit more volatile, but its slightly broader scope -- including oil companies -- might make sense for more investors. Nicholas Tiller has only called the shots for a little over a year, but the fund beat at least 70% of its peers over the last one-, three-, five- and 10-year periods.
In the big picture, however, it might make sense to focus on funds that tend to spread their money more broadly around the sector, because natural-gas prices and stocks won't always be riding high.
If you work with a broker, you might consider the broker-sold
Merrill Lynch Natural Resources fund, where Bob Shearer has been at the helm since the end of 1997. He's currently focusing on natural-gas stocks such as EOG Resources, a natural-gas shop Enron spinoff, but he has the leeway to go anywhere in the sector, including companies in the chemical, paper, lumber and precious metal businesses.
He has beaten at least 80% of the fund's peers over the last one- and three-year periods, according to Morningstar.
Another solid option is the no-load
Vanguard Energy fund, which boasts the category's lowest expense ratio (0.47%) and manager Ernst von Metzsch of Wellington Management, who has run the fund since 1984. He follows a risk-averse strategy, spreading money around the sector and trading less than his average peer. That approach has helped him beat his average peer over the past one-, three-, five- and 10-year periods. If you'd like more detail on his style, check out our
10 Questions interview with the veteran stock picker.
Another cheap, risk-averse fund you might check out is the no-load
T. Rowe Price New Era fund, where Charles Ober has been in charge since March 1997. The fund's expense ratio is just 0.74% ,and he, too, likes to scatter the fund's money in different industries to reduce risk. The fund beat its average peer over the last one-, three-, five- and 10-year periods.
If you're wondering which stocks are propelling these funds, don't worry: We've looked into the matter. We tossed our 10 leading funds' portfolios into a pot and sifted out a cumulative top-10 holdings. You'll find stocks like EOG Resources and
that we discussed in our primer, but also household names such as top-holding
You might not have thought these stocks intriguing a year ago, but they're looking a lot more relevant now that the beloved tech sector has at least temporarily buckled.