Last week we made the case for owning both growth and value funds; now let's check out some funds that give you access to both styles in one tidy package.
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Growth funds are essentially Wall Street's daredevils, buying the often pricey shares of companies that are growing their earnings faster than the broader market and/or their industry peers. Value funds, on the other hand, are essentially bargain hunters, sifting for the seemingly cheap shares of companies that might be only temporarily out of favor. The two styles tend to trade leadership in unpredictable cycles, so for most investors it makes sense to own both. But this week we're checking out the somewhat obscure blend or core fund categories, where managers own both growth and value stocks.
On Tuesday we checked out the
big-cap blend pack, and today we're picking through the small- and mid-cap blend bins. Because these funds follow a diversified style that doesn't fully commit to growth or value, they don't often grab headlines or appear on top- or bottom-10 scoreboards. But over the past year, their less racy style weathered the tech sector's collapse better than the
A Less Spicy Blend
Source: Morningstar. Returns through May 17.
Small- and mid-cap funds comprise some 30% of a diversified fund portfolio, and if you're intrigued by the blend idea, we've done some snooping for you. We sifted each category for funds that topped their peers over the past five years with the same manager at the helm. Then we yanked out funds with above-average expenses, assets below $100 million and that are closed to new investors. Here's a top-five from each pack, ranked by their average annual returns over the past five years.
Let's start with the small-cap funds, looking at a couple that made our cut and then at an intriguing pair that slipped through the cracks.
In running the
Meridian Value fund since 1995, manager Kevin O'Boyle has trolled the small-cap market for companies coming off two or three disappointing quarters. He looks for sputtering shops that are still market leaders with clean balance sheets and temporary problems. This strategy has led to a broadly diversified portfolio and solid returns. The fund beats the S&P 500 and at least 70% of its peers over the past one-, three- and five-year periods, according to
Donald Szemis takes a stricter value approach with the broker-sold
Merrill Lynch Small Cap Value fund, where he has held the reins since 1996. Focusing on stocks of companies trading at about 30% below their five-year average
price-to-sales ratios, he has managed to pick some winners. The fund beats the S&P 500 and at least 80% of its peers over the past one-, three- and five-year periods. The fund managed those returns even though about a third of its money was in the sagging tech and telecom sectors at the end of the first quarter, according to Morningstar.
In addition to the small-cap funds on our list, you might want to check out the no-load
T. Rowe Price Small-Cap Stock fund and the no-load
Vanguard Small Cap Index fund.
Greg McCrickard has run the former since 1992, splitting the fund's portfolio between traditional value stocks and battered growth shares. The fund's 15% average annual gain over the past 10 years beats two-thirds of its peers, but its 12.3% five-year annualized gain wasn't high enough to crack our top-five.
fund, run by index guru Gus Sauter since its 1989 inception, tracks the small-cap
Russell 2000 Index
. Indexing in the illiquid and dynamic small-cap market hasn't usually topped active management, and the fund does consistently lag its peers. But its broad diversification and tiny 0.25% expense ratio, compared with 1.42% for its average peer, make a nice fit for conservative and thrifty investors.
In looking at the mid-cap funds on our list, the no-load
Ariel Appreciation fund stands out. Manager Eric McKissan, who has held the reins since 1989, focuses on stocks he thinks are trading at 40% less than their true value. The fund, which typically holds only about 40 stocks, ends up with a blend label because McKissan's winners tend to boost the average
price-to-earnings ratio of the portfolio.
The fund beats the S&P 500 and at least 80% of its peers over the past one-, three- and five-year periods, according to Morningstar.
Another intriguing option is the no-load
Oak Value fund, where George Brumley and David Carr have called the shots since its 1993 inception. The pair follow a
-like approach, focusing on companies with clear, intelligible business models, good management and healthy cash flow. That often leads them to insurance, media and consumer-products firms, in addition to solid gains. The fund beats the S&P 500 and at least 60% of its competitors over the past one-, three- and five-year stretches, according to Morningstar.
One knock on the fund might be its concentrated approach. Brumley and Carr typically hold some 25 stocks with half the fund's assets bet on its top 10 holdings.
Two solid mid-cap blend funds that narrowly missed our cut are the broker-sold
Gabelli Value fund and the no-load
Vanguard Mid Capitalization Index fund.
Mario Gabelli has run the eponymous fund since its 1989 inception with a taste for companies whose shares he thinks are trading at a discount to future cash flows, particularly in the telecom sector. The approach might not get your pulse racing, but the fund tops at least 60% of its peers over the past one-, three-, five- and 10-year periods, according to Morningstar. The fund slipped through our net only because its 1.38% annual expenses are a bit higher than the 1.34% category average.
The mid-cap Vanguard Index fund, like its small-cap counterpart, has Gus Sauter at the helm. The fund, which tracks the
S&P 400 MidCap
index, didn't qualify for our list because it has been around only since 1998, but its 15.3% annualized gain over the past three years beats 97% of its peers and tops the S&P 500 by nearly nine percentage points, according to Morningstar. It also sports an ultralow 0.25% annual expense ratio.
There you have it, a buffet of blend funds for you to nosh on.
Fund Junkie runs every Monday and Wednesday, as well as occasional dispatches. Ian McDonald writes daily for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He invites you to send your feedback to
firstname.lastname@example.org, but he cannot give specific financial advice.