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The Daily Screen: The Best Mid-Cap Blend Funds

This category has stayed above water this year.

If you're looking for exposure to mid-cap stocks, but don't want to commit to a growth or value investment style, a mid-cap blend fund might be worth a look.

These funds, the focus of today's

Daily Screen

, invest primarily in stocks of companies with market caps between $1.5 billion and $9 billion. They get the "blend" label because they mix growth and value investment styles. Growth investors typically invest in stocks of companies with the fastest earnings growth, without worrying too much about steep valuations. Value investors, on the other hand, are essentially bargain hunters who look for stocks they think are undervalued relative to their peers or the market.

Because growth and value styles tend to change leadership every few years, a mid-cap blend fund might be a decent choice if you're looking for exposure to both styles through one fund. Mid-caps have been a hot spot in this year's shaky market. Since Jan. 1, the

S&P MidCap 400 Index

is up more than 15%, compared with a 7% loss for the

S&P 500

. The average mid-cap blend fund hasn't done that well, but it is above water, and this year that's something to crow about.

We've sifted through the mid-cap blend category to single out those funds that beat their average peer over the last one- and three-year periods. Here's a top 10 list, sorted by one-year returns.

At the top of our list we've got the no-load

(PBMCX)

PBHG Mid Cap Value fund. The hallmark of most PBHG funds is a high-octane, earnings-momentum style, but this fund is a bit different. Manager Jerome Heppelmann, who took the reins last June, typically avoids high valuations and has invested significant chunks of the portfolio in the energy and utilities sectors, while maintaining a decent technology-sector position.

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Another fund that jumps out at you is the broker-sold

(RPEAX) - Get Davis Opportunity A Report

Davis Growth Opportunity fund, which has had Ken Feinberg and Chris Davis at the helm since Jan. 1999 -- you might know Davis from his sterling work on the

(NYVTX) - Get Davis New York Venture A Report

Davis New York Venture fund. This pair have put up solid numbers, but they're not afraid to make big sector bets, which might make it inappropriate for skittish investors. The fund had some 60% of its assets in tech and telecommunications stocks on June 30, for instance, according to

Morningstar

.

In addition to the funds on our list, you also might consider the no-load

(FDCAX) - Get Fidelity Capital Appreciation Report

Fidelity Capital Appreciation fund, where manager Harry Lange spreads its money broadly among mid-caps, dabbling in small- and big-caps as well. Though the fund has struggled over the last 12 months, it has a solid longer-term track record.

And if you're looking for a mid-cap index fund, though there are some on our list, it's hard to skip the no-load

(VIMSX) - Get Vanguard Mid-Cap Index Inv Report

Vanguard Mid Cap Index fund, which tracks the S&P MidCap 400 Index and sports a minuscule 0.25% expense ratio.

In looking at the stocks that propelled our list of 10 leading funds, we find an eclectic list. It's not too surprising to see big-caps on the list because these names are frequently top holdings in mid-cap funds, either because the manager rode them up or because they're more liquid than smaller-cap stocks.