Are "Excellent" Funds Foolish? Part 2

Part 2 of this series continues our look at the 24 funds that have earned their place in the 2007 Business Week/Standard & Poor's Excellence in Fund Management Awards. To kick things off, we looked at the large-cap funds on the list, as well as a few all-cap entries. In this installment, we examine the winners from the small- and mid-cap categories.

The five funds that Business Week named as tops in the small- and mid-cap categories were American Century Vista, Westcore Midco Growth, RS Value, Keeley Small Cap Value, and Stratton Small Cap Value. Let's turn our Foolish magnifying glass on each of these funds in turn.

Mid-cap growth
American Century Vista is a true mid-cap growth fund, run by co-managers David Hollond and Glen Fogle. Unafraid to stray from the sector and industry weightings of the benchmark Russell Mid-Cap Growth Index, this fund maintains its largest weightings in wireless-communications provider NII Holdings (Nasdaq: NIHD  ) and industrial manufacturer Precision Castparts (NYSE: PCP  ) . Excluding an eye-popping return of 119% in 1999, performance has been respectable compared with a mid-cap growth benchmark. Investors should be aware, however, that turnover in this fund is sky-high, currently at 234%. Yet if you're looking for a strongly growth-oriented mid-cap fund and are willing to accept the inevitable ups and downs that such a fund will encounter, Vista might not be a bad choice.

I'm less enthusiastic about Westcore Midco Growth. This fund, which also lands in the mid-cap growth-style box, appears to lack a long-tenured management team. Of the fund's three listed managers, two have been with the fund for fewer than two years, and the third has been on board since only October 2002. As a result, the current management team has no experience managing assets during a true bear-market period. Expenses are low, and the fund appears to be relatively well diversified, but I don't think this makes up for the lack of management experience and spotty performance record. The fund beat the Russell Mid-Cap Growth Index in only four of the past 10 years. Foolish investors can do better.

Mid-cap value
RS Value is a step in the right direction. This fund focuses on undervalued securities in the mid-cap space and is run by lead portfolio manager Andrew Pilara, who gets an assist from eight other portfolio managers and analysts. Ideally, I would prefer to see a somewhat deeper level of experience -- Pilara has been with the fund since only January 2001 -- but the fund's performance since he took the helm has been pretty impressive. Since that time, the fund has ranked in Morningstar's top quartile of mid-cap blend funds in every calendar year except 2001. Not too shabby.

Two good small-cap picks
Keeley Small Cap Value, managed by John Keeley Jr. since its 1993 inception, is a great example of a solid small-cap fund that has maintained a consistent investment process throughout its entire history. Keeley looks for companies that are undergoing some kind of corporate restructuring and will provide strong cash flows in the future. Picks such as Chaparral Steel (Nasdaq: CHAP  ) and Whiting Petroleum (NYSE: WLL  ) have provided a boost to recent performance and helped the fund place near the top of the small-cap value category. However, with an asset base of $3.9 billion, the fund may start bumping up against some capacity constraints at some point. Right now, the fund's size doesn't seem to be holding back its performance, but it would be a reassuring move if management closed the fund to new investors sometime in the near future.

The last fund in our small-to-mid-cap roundup is Stratton Small Cap Value. This fund, led by portfolio manager Gerald Horn, is another fairly decent small-cap option, although it also appears to have escaped public notice. With only $766 million in net assets, this fund should have room to grow for some time to come. The fund underperformed the Russell 2000 Index by a wide margin in 1998 and 1999, but that isn't surprising given the fund's value orientation. Performance since then has been pretty consistently to the upside. Annual turnover for the fund is a low 29%, and more than two-thirds of the portfolio is allocated to small-cap securities, likely in part because of its low asset base. This isn't a bad choice to play a small-cap value role.

That closes out domestic equity funds. Coming up in Part 3: Business Week's international selections, as well as some winners from the fixed-income sector.

For more on what makes a mutual fund truly Foolish, take a free look at the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter. Fool fund expert Shannon Zimmerman finds promising funds each month that have outperformed their peers through good times and bad. Learn about the best mutual funds you can buy by starting your free 30-day trial today.

Fool contributor Amanda Kish lives in Rochester, N.Y., and hopes she lives to see the day when either the Buffalo Bills win the Super Bowl or the Buffalo Sabres take the Stanley Cup. She's not greedy -- one or the other will suffice. Amanda does not own shares of any of the companies or funds mentioned herein. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (6)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 525275, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 8/21/2014 12:39:28 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...


Advertisement