The bear market has been particularly harsh for value funds. The average large value fund dropped 40% during the year ending April 1, more than 3 percentage points worse than large growth, according to Morningstar.

Nervous investors have been dumping value funds. But before you sell, keep in mind that some value funds have proved relatively resilient. Such stable performers could be sound choices for investors seeking to build portfolios that can weather hard times.

For value portfolio managers, much of the trouble can be traced to a few sectors. Because they favor cheap stocks, many value funds have traditionally held big stakes in financial and energy companies, industries with low price-to-earnings ratios that have been clobbered lately. Big financial holdings hurt such premier value funds as Longleaf Partners ( LLPFX), which lost 46% in the past year. Other noted value funds that lost more than 45% include Columbia Value & Restructuring ( UMBIX), Dodge & Cox Stock ( DODGX) and Legg Mason Value ( LMVTX).

While many star managers sank, some funds avoided the worst damage. Among the leaders were funds that dodged troubled banks and focused on high-quality companies with reliable earnings. Such stocks proved relatively stable as investors sought safety during the downturn.

One of the top value performers of the past year was Yacktman Fund ( YACKX), which lost 28%, outpacing the S&P 500 by more than 10 percentage points. Portfolio manager Donald Yacktman bought some steady blue chips that had sunk into value territory, including Microsoft ( MSFT) and Procter & Gamble ( PG).

Yacktman's strong showing was hardly a fluke. Holding steady companies, the fund produced double-digit annual returns from 2000 to 2002, years when the S&P dropped deeply into the red.

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