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When the White House is a jump ball and stock prices are in a free-fall, you realize why it's important to keep value funds in your portfolio.

Big-cap value funds, the focus of today's

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, essentially hunt for bargains in the stock market among giant companies, favoring those with steady earnings growth but seemingly modest share prices relative to their peers or the market.

This approach can lead to solid returns, with less volatility than growth funds, which tend to favor faster growing companies with steeper valuations. Of course, the definition of "value" is a bit more slippery than growth, because some fund managers consider classic valuations methods such as low price-to-earnings multiples when hunting for values, while others may consider high-growth tech stocks that may not have all of their growth potential priced in.

Value and growth styles tend to trade leadership every year or two. This uneven year has belonged to value funds, which are leading the S&P 500 by about 7% since Jan. 1, according to



After the past couple of growth-dominated years, many investors are sitting with sagging, growth-overdosed portfolios. If you're in this boat and shopping for a value fund to balance out your assets, here are some you might consider. We've sifted the pack for those funds that beat their average peer over the past one- and three-year time periods. Here's a top 10, ranked by one-year returns.

We've also singled out the 10 most widely held stocks among the 10 leading funds, but first let's check out the funds.

It's a fairly star-studded list. If you work with a broker, you might consider the

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Smith Barney Fundamental Value or the

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Kemper-Dreman High Return fund.

John Goode has run the Smith Barney fund since 1990. He favors battered turn-around stocks and that approach has led to a stellar track record. The fund beats at least 95% of its peers over the last one-, three-, five- and 10-year time periods, according to Morningstar.

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High-profile manager David Dreman has skippered the Kemper fund since the fund's 1988 inception. He also shops the market for unloved companies that he thinks are undervalued and has also had a lot of success. The funds' 21.9% 10-year annualized return beats 99% of its peers.

If you're looking for a no-load option, you might consider the


Excelsior Value & Restructuring fund, where unsung manager David Williams has been in charge since the fund's 1992 inception. Unlike most value managers, Williams isn't afraid to dabble in tech stocks, so the fund can be a bit more volatile than others. Still, its 24% five-year annualized return ranks at the top of its category.

A less aggressive no-load choice is the

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Clipper fund. Its long-time managers James Gipson, Michael Sandler and Bruce Veaco aren't afraid to let cash pile up if they don't find cheap stocks they like. Their low-octane approach has kept volatility low, but hasn't hampered returns. The fund beats at least 85% of its peers over the past one-, three-, five- and 10-year periods.

What stocks have pushed these funds north? Here's a list of the 10 stocks that play the biggest role in these combined bargain-hunters' portfolios. Not surprisingly, the list is dominated by financial stocks like


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Freddie Mac



Fannie Mae


. It's also not a shock to see old value stand-by Philip Morris. The embattled tobacco shop has taken a vicious beating in recent years, but its shares are up nearly 70% this year.