Whether you were investing at home or abroad, it has paid to think small.
combs through the global or world fund category, where a healthy dose of small- and mid-cap stocks have propelled the leaders. These funds invest, to varying degrees, in both U.S. and foreign stocks. In this sense, their broad diversification can make them good choices for investors who are just going to buy one fund. But their wide leeway can make them tough to fold into a portfolio of other funds because they often straddle several investment styles.
Because the U.S. market has had such a solid run prior to this year, global funds' foreign holdings have typically kept them behind the
, trailing the index by nearly 7% over the last five- and 10-year periods, according to
Many global fund managers have been chasing higher returns, or slimmer losses, in U.S. stocks. The classic U.S./foreign stock allocation in global funds is 65%/35%, but through the end of October the ratio was closer to 60%/40%. Still, weakness in foreign markets has kept these funds from even beating the S&P 500 in this tough year.
That said, some global funds have fared well. In many cases it's primarily due to big stakes in small- and mid-cap stocks -- categories that have outperformed big-caps over the last year. We've sifted the 120-fund category for those funds that beat their average peer over the last one- and three- year periods. Here's a top-10 list, ranked by one-year returns.
In addition, we've screened the leading funds' holdings to get a look at their cumulative top picks. But first, the funds.
These 10 funds average about a 70% allocation to small- and mid-cap stocks, while the average global fund invests more money in big-caps. Most have taken an aggressive approach, perhaps none more high-octane than broker-sold
Merrill Lynch Global Small Cap and the no-load
Warburg Pincus Global Post-Venture funds. These two funds' have had an appetite for small-caps that's led to more volatility than their average peer.
The fund that jumps out from the pack is the no-load
Tweedy, Browne Global Value fund. Managers Chris Browne, Will Browne and John Spears have held the reins since the fund's 1993 inception. They've typically favored small-caps, but they've used a value approach that essentially shops for bargains. This has led to less risk than more aggressive peers without sacrificing returns. Their 18.5%, five-year annualized return beats just about 80% of their peers, according to Morningstar. For details on their investment style, check out this
10 Questions interview with the brothers Browne.
If you work with a broker and you're looking for a solid global fund that gives you more big-cap exposure, check out the broker-sold
New Perspective fund, run by
. The fund's one-year return didn't make our top-10, but its 16.9% 10-year annualized return beats 99% of its peers, according to Morningstar.
Janus Worldwide would be a similarly good choice for no-load investors, but the fund is closed to new investors. Instead, check out the no-load
T. Rowe Price Global Stock fund, which has beaten its average peer over the last one- and three-year periods.
As for the favorite stocks of our top-10 global funds, it's a list rife with big-cap tech and telecom stocks like
. Then there's also foreign wireless behemoths
Where are the small- and mid-caps? Because smaller stocks are typically thinly traded, big-caps usually dominate a fund's top-10 holdings because it's easier for a fund to build and sell positions in big-cap stocks.