While many growth funds emphasize technology, MFS Growth stays broadly diversified, holding stakes in nearly all market sectors. Some sectors do not have the solid growth that Fischman prefers. In those areas, he takes the best names that he can find.

Finding industrial stocks is particularly difficult. Many of the companies in the sector are highly cyclical, suffering steep earnings declines when the economy falls. An industrial stock that MFS owns is Danaher ( DHR). Although Danaher suffers in downturns, the stock tends to be relatively steady because it relies on a broad range of customers in healthcare and other industries. The company makes equipment and measurement instruments that are used by manufacturers that serve utilities, dentists, and petroleum companies.

In the technology sector, Fischman avoids such blue chips as International Business Machines ( IBM) and Microsoft ( MSFT). Those companies sell at modest prices, but he says that it is possible to find faster growers. A holding is Apple ( AAPL). The earnings more than doubled in the last quarter, but the shares only sell for a multiple of 14. The shares are cheap because investors worry that the Apple cannot maintain its torrid growth, Fischman says. He agrees that earnings cannot continue doubling, but he says that the company can grow fast enough to justify the modest multiple.

Another fund that seeks stocks with sustainable earnings is Sentinel Common Stock. The fund has finished in the top half of the large blend category in nine of the last 10 years. During the past decade, Sentinel returned 5.6% annually, outdoing 89% of peers. Portfolio manager Dan Manion buys high-quality stocks and holds them for years. The fund turns over its portfolio at an annual rate of 9%, compared to a figure of 67% for its average peer. To stay diversified, Manion does not put much weight in any single sector or stock. He holds more than 100 stocks and rarely puts more than 2% of assets in any one name.

A longtime holding is United Technologies ( UTX), which makes Otis elevators, Carrier air conditioners, and Pratt and Whitney aircraft engines. Manion says that the company tends to be resilient in downturns. "While they do serve cyclical markets, they tend to be relatively steady because of big maintenance and repair businesses that are consistently profitable," he says.

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