President Obama has> once again made a case for health-care reform at an all-day Feb. 25 forum that included some of his most vocal Republican critics. While the gathering was supposed to close the gap between opposing political sides, it appears that divide is still wide. The White House would like to see a bill move forward within six weeks. Republicans want him to start the legislative process over. If the debate drags on further into the year, it may be unlikely any deal gets signed since the midterm election season will get underway.
The uncertainty surrounding the health-care industry has caused many investors to think twice about putting their money in it. The specter of increased government regulation whatever form it may take doesn t sit well with them. How can you smartly invest in a company with so many question marks surrounding its bottom line or the industry it does business in?
Of course, when those investors head for the exits others start to get interested. This week we looked for funds that had at least one-quarter of their assets in health-care companies, whether in pharmaceutical, insurance or biotech. That 25% exposure is essentially double the 12.6% health-care exposure of the S&P 500. We started with 286 funds and then searched for ones that charged low fees and had above-average performance track records during the trailing three- and five-year time periods. That left us with seven funds.
If you take a quick glance at the table you will notice one glaring detail: None of the funds are actually health-care funds. We could have easily included the funds that traditionally invest in this sector. But we thought it might be a more interesting exercise to focus on actively managed, diversified offerings that are making big health-care bets.
There could be several reasons why these managers are holding these positions. Health care tends to do well during downturns because consumers aren t likely to skimp on their medical care the way they might avoid buying a new car or taking a luxurious vacation. Some managers may think the political debate on Capitol Hill has unfairly beaten down these stocks. There is also a strong demographic trend at play in the background: aging baby boomers are sure to drive health-care spending over the next few decades.
That said, we aren t so sure you need to scoop up any of these funds for their health-care exposure. After all, if you really are bullish on the sector, the 12.6% position of the S&P 500 is probably plenty to give your portfolio a shot in the arm if health care rallies.
So what do these funds own? As of their latest SEC filings Buffalo Large Cap had top five positions in Merck, Bayer and Gilead Sciences. PrimeCap Odyssey Growth owned Amgen and Eli Lilly, among others And Columbia Select Large Cap Growth featured Allergan and St. Jude Medical.
The Criteria: We used Morningstar s screener tool to find equity funds that had at least 25% of their portfolios invested in the health-care industry. In addition to that, the funds had to be open to new money, required a minimum investment under $5,000 and charged an annual expense ratio less than 1.5%. Their track records over the trailing three- and five-year time periods put them in the top half of their category. As usual, we did not include funds that charged a sale load.
Note: Data as of Feb. 25, 2010
|Buffalo Large Cap||BUFEX||34.9||-3.31||1.74||1.09|
|Columbia Select Large Cap Growth||UMLGX||1900.0||-3.17||3.77||1.03|
|Primecap Odyssey Aggressive Growth||POAGX||472.8||-1.51||6.31||0.77|
|Primecap Odyssey Growth||POGRX||905.8||-2.31||4.48||0.71|
|Primecap Odyssey Stock||POSKX||274.4||-2.77||3.48||0.80|
|TCW Small Cap Growth||TGSCX||426.2||2.82||8.74||1.2|