Past performance is famously no guarantee of future results, but as a contrarian indicator, it can come in mighty handy. The market really does move in cycles, after all, taking your portfolio along for the ride. The upshot: Because one cycle's overachievers can be the next cycle's laggards, savvy investors should strive to zig when others zag.
That said, contrarian investing can be a contact sport, with market trends persisting well past the point at which you'd expect them to evaporate on contact with valuation reality. Consider the late-'90s tech bubble, for instance. Now consider the Foolish wisdom of mutual funds. When chosen intelligently, funds can reduce your portfolio's volatility and allow you to take advantage of Wall Street's "nearsightedness."
A nice investing twofer, no?
Don't follow the leader
With that as a backdrop, one smart way to proceed these days is to favor funds that traffic in undervalued big boys such as Valero Energy
To be sure, smaller fish such as ValueClick
Meanwhile, after lagging smaller stocks for years, large caps are showing signs of life and currently represent the market's valuation sweet spot. Growth-oriented large caps seem especially attractive right now, with investors bidding them down (on a relative basis) for so long that Mr. Market has basically morphed into Crazy Eddie where they're concerned: Prices are so low, they're insane!
OK, maybe "insane" is overstating it. Still, Intel
Make no mistake: There's no timing a market's "turn," which is another reason why smart contrarians should give funds their careful consideration: The built-in diversification they provide can smooth the speed bumps on the path to retirement bliss.
That said, with more than 7,000 of the suckers vying for your hard-earned moola -- and with the vast majority of 'em market-lagging time-wasters -- it pays to be choosy. You can always go the indexing route, of course, but remember: With index funds, the most you can realistically expect is that your funds will lag their benchmarks by about the amount of their price tags.
Fool's final word
Enter Champion Funds, the Fool investing service dedicated to the cause of helping you beat the market with funds. Since opening for business back in March 2004, our list of recommendations has bested the market by nearly 9 percentage points. These picks hail from all corners of the market, too -- large-cap growth included. Indeed, we've identified five choice funds of that type that smart contrarians should consider as 2007 approaches.
If you'd like to sneak a peek at those funds and all the others we've tapped, click here for a free guest pass. You'll have 30 days to browse our current issue and archives, as well as our members-only discussion boards, complete recommendations list, and model portfolios. There's no obligation to stick around if you find it's not for you.
Shannon Zimmerman runs point on the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service and co-advises GreenLight. At the time of publication, he didn't own any of the securities mentioned above. Intel and Dell are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Dell is also a Stock Advisor pick. Valero Energy is a Hidden Gems selection. You can check out the Fool's strict disclosure policy by clicking righthere.