Legg Mason's Top 'Aggressive' Growth Stocks

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The stock market in the second half of 2011 is proving to be so volatile, it's best to stick with companies that can grow despite the soft patch in the economy, says Evan Bauman, manager of the Legg Mason ClearBridge Aggressive Growth Fund (SHRAX). He favors companies like Biogen Idec (BIIB) and SanDisk (SNDK).

The mutual fund, which garners two of five stars from Morningstar ( MORN), has returned over 35% in the past year, putting it in Morningstar's 6th percentile for large-cap growth funds. During the past three years, the ClearBridge Aggressive Growth Fund has returned an annual average of 7.5%, placing it in the top 17% of all funds in this category.

What is your outlook for stocks in the second half?

Bauman: More of the same. The economy has been difficult. It's going to remain difficult. The goal is to really find companies that can grow in that market, companies that have cash and the ability to use their balance sheets to grow. It's going to be a very choppy economic backdrop.

The largest holding in the fund is Biogen Idec. Why are you so positive about this company's prospects?

Bauman: Biogen Idec is a company that has two drugs on the market to treat multiple sclerosis. It has the standard of care in the non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma space. And it has a very deep pipeline of drugs. They have the opportunity to triple earnings over the next five to six years as they come up with new, novel ways to treat a lot of these diseases.

Another company in your portfolio is SanDisk, which came out with very good earnings recently. Can the company keep it up?

Bauman: I think so. What SanDisk really does is enable the storage of media devices and that means smartphones. It means tablet computers. Whether you use an Apple, a Samsung, or a RIM device, SanDisk is storing all of the digital content and we believe they will continue to grow in this environment.

We had seen a nice recovery in the energy sector, specifically the oil stocks, after the BP (BP) spill. What does this mean for Anadarko Petroleum (APC)?

Bauman: Anadarko is less a Macondo spill story and it's more an earnings and cash flow growth story. The balance sheet remains in great shape and Anadarko continues to expand internationally in places like Brazil, China and Northwest Africa. These are all international growth opportunities for the company.

Another major holding in your portfolio is Cree (CREE). Is the secular shift toward LED lighting still in place?

Bauman: Absolutely. In fact, it's just beginning. Cree has been a very volatile name this year. The opportunity for them is the global shift from incandescent light bulbs and compact fluorescents to LED chips lighting your homes, your offices and your streets. And we are in the very early stages of that growth.

-- Reported by Gregg Greenberg in New York.

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

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