There's been a lot of turmoil and gnashing of teeth surrounding recent health-care reform, but even in the absence of reform, it's hard to deny that the health-care sector will play an increasingly important part in all our lives in the future. Though we have yet to see how these new measures will play out in the real world, you can't argue with demographics. A growing elderly population, especially as the first wave of baby boomers retires, means an escalating demand for health-care services.
Health care is one of the most promising sectors for investors now, thanks to a combination of long-term demographic trends and reasonably low industry valuations. Odds are you've already got a decent slug of health-care stocks in your portfolio, especially if you own broad-market mutual funds. But if you're looking to step up your exposure with a well-diversified fund, here are three excellent ones that are currently leaning heavily into health care.
PRIMECAP Odyssey Growth (POGRX)
The PRIMECAP investment team is one of the most well-oiled machines in the investment business today. The five people that run this large-growth fund have a first-rate track record, with a 5-year annualized return of 3.6%, ahead of 94% of its peer group. Management looks for mid- and large-cap names with above-average earnings growth potential, and right now, health care is taking top billing in the portfolio.
Allocation to the health-care sector currently accounts for nearly 40% of Odyssey Growth's assets. Management is big on biotechs like Immunogen
As a result, they think these firms should be able to grow sales and profits more rapidly than the market anticipates. If you're looking for a low-turnover, high-octane growth fund, PRIMECAP Odyssey Growth is a prime choice.
Hussman Strategic Growth (HSGFX)
John Hussman has certainly been making the media rounds lately, predicting doom and gloom for the economy and saying a double-dip recession is all but a certainty. This fund has the ability to sell stocks short, and Hussman has said he is fully hedged in expecting further market declines. But in spite of his generally pessimistic views, Hussman has been stepping up his health-care allocation, which accounts for nearly one-third of assets.
In recent months, Hussman has initiated positions in drugmakers Abbott Laboratories
Most mutual funds in the long-short category don't measure up over the long run and tend to only do well in down markets. Not so with the Strategic Growth fund: It has outpaced the S&P 500 index by an annualized 9.8 percentage points since its August 2000 inception. Cautious investors who want exposure to the stock market while also guarding against excessive losses should find much to like here.
This fund has taken its lumps in years past and as a result has fallen out of favor with many investors. But folks who ignore Ron Muhlenkamp's fine long-term track record may end up kicking themselves down the road. Even with its lagging performance in 2006-2008, the fund still ranks ahead of 65% of its large-value competition over the past decade and ahead of 94% over the past 15 years. Although Muhlenkamp is generally cautious on the economic recovery, he's loaded up on health-care names, roughly 24% of fund assets.
Two names that Muhlenkamp likes in this space are Pfizer
Muhlenkamp places a heavy emphasis on macroeconomic analysis when it comes to constructing his portfolio, and he appears to believe that health care should do well, even in the uncertain economic environment ahead. This fund isn't flashy, but over the long haul it gets the job done and should benefit nicely if health care puts in a good showing.
There's still a lot going on in the health-care sector, and the impact of reform and an aging population will have far-reaching effects. As this trend unfolds, investors can profit from astute fund managers who are carefully sifting through the field and identifying what's most likely to profit as a result.
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Amanda Kish is the Fool's resident fund advisor for the Rule Your Retirement investment newsletter. At the time of publication, she did not own any of the funds or companies mentioned herein. Novartis AG is a Motley Fool Global Gains choice. Pfizer is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Laboratory of America Holdings is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation.The Fool has a disclosure policy.