Mutual fund investors> have no shortage of topics to debate. There are the annual fees that eat into returns and the decision to pay up for a fund that charges a sales load. Conservative investors can make bets on the broad market, while more aggressive ones can place money on an esoteric niche like alternative energy or a developing economy like India. Which is better, a portfolio of hundreds of stocks or one that contains just a few dozen? The list goes on.
One frequent subject of debate is which strategy to favor: growth or value. That grudge match is evident when looking at two index funds launched on the same day back in 1992. The Vanguard Growth Index fund has returned an average annual 7.7% since its inception, and it is up 5.5% year-to-date. Meanwhile, the Vanguard Value Index fund has gained an average annual 8.4% since 1992 and has increased 7.1% in 2010. Of course, growth funds have produced some tantalizing returns in bull markets during that time. But the results and academic studies suggest that funds that buy stocks trading at a discount win out over the long term.
This week, the SmartMoney.com Fund Screen is focusing on the granddaddies of the value world: large-cap value funds. Morningstar says the average large-cap value fund has gained 6.6% in 2010, about 1.5 percentage points ahead of their growth counterparts. Morningstar tracks 1,294 funds and share classes in its large value category. We narrowed that universe by looking for funds with above-average track records during the trailing three- and five-year time periods and ones that charged decent fees. We eventually found six funds that fit our criteria
While there are true believers in both camps, portfolios don t have to side one way or the other when it comes to growth and value funds. Indeed, some advisors use both and alter their weightings as one style falls out of favor. Pulling off that requires a bit of timing, which can be difficult, but if implemented correctly the strategy can work well in a diversified portfolio.
Picking a growth or value fund also depends on investor psychology. Value funds are typically associated with longer-term investors. Growth funds are favored by those who can tolerate more risk.
At $8.9 billion in assets, T. Rowe Price Value is the largest fund on our list. This fund has been a top performer, posting returns that put it in the top quartile of its peer group over the trailing three-, five-, 10- and 15-year time periods. Investors should be keeping a close eye on it, though, because there was a recent manager change. However, T. Rowe handled the transition well, giving new manager Mark Finn a year to learn the ropes before taking over on his own. The fund s top holdings as of its last filing include Microsoft, Bank of America and Southwest Airlines.
The Criteria: The funds on our list are part of Morningstar s large-cap value category. They are open to new money, require a minimum investment under $5,000 and charge an annual expense ratio less than 1.5%. In addition, they have track records that put them in the top 25% of the category over the trailing three- and five-year periods and they are also beating the 6.1% year-to-date return of the S&P 500. As usual, we did not include load funds.
Note: Data as of April 2, 2010
|Dreyfus Strategic Value||DRGVX||731.3||-3.68||3.92||1.11|
|RidgeWorth Large Cap Value Equity||STVTX||1400.0||-2.45||3.79||0.82|
|T. Rowe Price Value||TRVLX||8900.0||-4.05||2.89||0.89|
Correction: The expense ratio for the Auxier Focus Fund is 1.25%. An earlier version of the chart accompanying this article listed the ratio as 1.35%, but the company recently lowered it.>