Top Funds of 2011 Driven by Tech, Energy

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- With barely a month down in 2011, investors are making the most money from large-cap mutual funds in anticipation of a long-awaited revival of global economic growth.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, made up of 30 blue-chip, large-company stocks, broke the 12,000 level yesterday for the first time in 2 1/2 years. It has been buoyed by investors' upbeat take on corporate earnings and President Barack Obama's call to overhaul corporate taxes in his State of the Union speech Tuesday.

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index is up 2.8% this year, while the Dow Jones Industrials Average has risen 3.5%.

Flows into all types of equity mutual funds hit a five-week high of $10.1 billion in the week ending Jan. 19, of which $6.9 billion flowed into U.S. stock funds. Bond funds have suffered outflows. It was the sixth week of net inflows to stock funds in the past seven weeks, amounting to total inflows of $17.3 billion for the period, and most of it went to large-cap funds, said EPFR Global, a provider of fund flows and asset-allocation data.

That's a stark reversal from 2010, when U.S. equity funds had outflows of $49 billion.

In terms of performance through Jan. 25, technology mutual funds led the pack with a 3.2% return, followed by industrial funds, 3%; large-cap value funds, 2.5%; health funds, 2.4%; and large-cap blend funds, 2.3% return, according to Morningstar.

ProFunds Short Precious Metals ( SPPIX) led all funds in terms of performance through Jan. 25, with a return of 13% this year. The fund is essentially a hedge that gold and other precious metals prices will fall, so as gold slides, it rides. Its long-term record is abysmal: ProFunds Short Precious Metals lost 34% last year and has a five-year average return of minus 24%.

Behind it is Cambiar Aggressive Value Investor ( CAMAX), up 11% this year and 51% over the past year. Brian Barish, its manager since August 2007, has loaded up the fund with computer-hardware and energy stocks.

The large-cap value fund has made several recent investments in oil-field services companies. In a prescient bet, Barish added 70,000 shares of Halliburton ( HAL) during the period ending Nov. 30, making it the fund's largest allocation at a whopping 9%.

Although its shares are down 1.5% this year, Halliburton on Monday reported that fourth-quarter earnings more than doubled from a year earlier because of international demand as well as record U.S. revenue on the industry's rush to exploit shale formations in North America.

Halliburton said revenue and earnings growth will continue through 2011 as high oil prices drive demand for drilling and oil-rig services globally. Its shares gained 37% in 2010, more than twice that of the S&P 500.

Another new portfolio addition to Cambiar in the most recent reporting period was oil-field-services provider Key Energy ( KEG), now at 5.3% of the fund. Key's shares gained 48% in 2010 but are down 6.3% this year. Last week, FBR Capital reiterated its "outperform" rating on the company and raised its price target to $16 from $13, citing "favorable secular trends."

Other top holdings of Cambiar include: international oil-and-gas firm Repsol YPF ( REP), at 8.3%, and Flextronics International ( FLEX), a Singapore-based electronics-assembly contractor, which is 7.5% of the fund.

But the fund's returns this year have been buttressed by Canadian transportation conglomerate Bombardier ( BBD.B), up 18%; On Semiconductor ( ONNN), up 14%; and European Aeronautic Defense ( EAD), up 19%.

Another large-cap fund off to a quick start is the $2 billion AllianceBernstein Large Cap Growth Fund ( APGAX), up 6% this year and 21% over the past 12 months. It's counting on technology darlings Apple ( AAPL), the maker of the iPad and iPhone, at 7.5% of the fund, and the Internet search engine Google ( GOOG), 5.2% of the fund.

Others in its top five include Alcon ( ACL), a leading maker of an array of eye-care products, investment bank JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) and oil-field-services giant Schlumberger ( SLB), all about 4% of the fund.

Schlumberger recently reported that fourth-quarter earnings rose 31%, and its results and that of Halliburton support the view that the oil-field-services sector is poised for a strong growth spurt on expectations that oil will top $100 a barrel this year.

AllianceBernstein has a volatile performance record and is coming off a particularly poor 2010, when it returned 9.4% versus the S&P 500's 15%. That put it in the 93rd percentile of large-cap funds, as ranked by Morningstar.

Another strong performer so far this year is Guinness Atkinson Alternative Energy Fund ( GAAEX), up 8.7%. It's a strict play on alternative-energy stocks and, in particular, solar-energy companies. It may be serving as a counterpoint to rising oil and gas prices for some investors, but its long-term prospects are what attract most investors to the $38 million fund.

Its top picks are three Chinese companies: ReneSola ( SOL), a maker of the crystalline raw material used to make solar wafers, at 5.2% of the fund; LDK Solar ( LDK), the world's largest manufacturer of solar wafers, at 5.2%; and JA Solar Holdings ( JASO), at 4.8%.

ReneSola is the star of the group, with its shares up 18% this year after a gain of 84% in 2010.

As could be expected for a fund that is so focused, Guinness Atkinson Alternative Energy's returns are volatile. Last year, it lost 21% of its value.

Also off to a quick start this year is the $1.2 billion Fidelity Select Electronics Fund ( FSELX), up 6.7%. Its biggest holding, at 9.9% of the fund, is Marvell Technology ( MRVL), up 6.7% this year. A top performer is its fourth-largest holding, at 4.9%, Micron Technology ( MU), up 24%. But the hottest stock in the fund is a maker of graphics-processor chips, Nvidia ( NVDA), up 56%.

Fidelity Select Electronics gained 17% in 2010 and 85% the year before. Its performance can be volatile since the portfolio typically has a big allocation to semiconductor stocks.


Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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