Mutual funds often appeal to investors who don't have time to follow individual stocks. These funds, which include a diverse range of investments, are actively managed by portfolio managers. When seeking out a mutual fund, investors should consider several factors.

First, the expense rate, the percentage of the investment deducted as annual fees, should typically remain below 1%. Investors should also be familiar with the fund's minimum investment limits, as well as its previous track record -- although past performance never guarantees future gains.

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Investors should also understand that there are alternatives to mutual funds. Passively managed index funds, which track existing stock indexes like the S&P 500, have lower expense rates and aren't dependent on a manager's performance. Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are similar to mutual funds, but they can be actively traded throughout the day, while mutual funds can only be traded once daily after the market closes.

Investors looking for stable returns should stick with mutual funds, which mainly own shares of larger companies with market caps of over $5 billion. Let's take a closer look at three large cap mutual funds you should consider buying in 2020.

Vanguard Dividend Growth

The Vanguard Dividend Growth (NASDAQMUTFUND:VDIGX) fund invests in wide range of large cap companies that consistently raise their annual dividends.

Its top holdings include blue chip giants like Medtronic, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, UnitedHealth, and Johnson & Johnson. It's heavily weighed toward the industrial, healthcare, consumer staples, consumer discretionary, and financial sectors.

The fund has a low expense ratio of 0.22% and requires a minimum investment of $3,000. It currently pays a yield of 1.6%, and it's generated a total return of 76% over the past five years. Those low fees and robust returns make this mutual fund a solid core holding for most portfolios.

Fidelity China Region Fund

Many Chinese stocks tumbled over the past two years as the trade war escalated and the country's economic growth dipped to its slowest rate in nearly three decades. However, that outlook could improve in 2020 as China signs a "phase one" trade deal with the U.S. and launches fresh stimulus plans for its sluggish economy.

Investors who want exposure to that recovery but don't want to fret over individual stocks should consider investing in the Fidelity China Region Fund (NASDAQMUTFUND:FHKCX), which counts Tencent, Alibaba, TSMC, and other regional giants among its top holdings.

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The fund invests heavily in China's consumer discretionary, information technology, financial, and communication services sectors. It has an expense ratio of 0.95%, which is low compared to other Chinese funds, and doesn't have any minimum investment requirements. It pays a yield of 0.7%, and it's generated an impressive total return of 54% over the past five years.

American Century Global Gold Fund

Gold prices recently flirted with a seven-year high as tensions flared between the U.S. and Iran. That escalating crisis, along with other macro uncertainties like the upcoming presidential election, could keep gold prices elevated throughout the year.

The American Century Global Gold Fund (NASDAQMUTFUND:BGEIX), which holds shares of large cap gold miners like Barrick Gold, Newmont Goldcorp, Franco-Nevada, and Kirkland Lake Gold, offers investors diversified exposure to the gold mining market.

The fund has a low expense ratio of 0.68%, with a minimum investment of $2,500. It generated a total return of 58% over the past five years. That's roughly double the 29% rally in gold prices during the same period, since well-run miners with low production costs can still profit when prices decline. In short, this fund could offer investors a diverse hedge against macro headwinds, market volatility, and inflation throughout 2020.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.