We're looking at the 24 funds that won the 2007 Business Week/Standard & Poor's Excellence in Fund Management Awards. We've looked at the large- and all-cap entries, as well as the mid- and small-cap winners. In this installment, we examine the international selections, as well as a few of the fixed-income champs.
Turning to international mandates, Dodge & Cox International Stock clocked in as one of the category's most attractive options. In general, I think Dodge & Cox is a terrific shop, with a consistent value-oriented approach and true team process. Of course, many investors have figured that out and have forced the firm to close two of its four mutual funds to new investors. Dodge & Cox International Stock, however, is one that remains open. This fund focuses on foreign stocks trading at attractive valuations, such as current top holdings Hitachi
SSgA International Stock Selection is the second winner in the international-stock arena. This fund employs a quantitative approach to selecting international stocks for the portfolio. Managers Didier Rosenfeld and Craig Scholl have been with the fund since 2000, and it has managed to beat its MSCI EAFE benchmark in seven of the past 10 years -- a nice feather in its cap. This is a decent fund and could be a good complement to a more actively managed, fundamentally focused international-stock fund, such as Dodge & Cox, but nothing here makes me want to run right out and buy.
Bond funds take the stage
Stock funds may have the sexiest returns, but we don't want to forget about those great volatility reducers that make up the world of bonds. The Business Week report also deemed several fixed-income funds as being at the top of their class. Let's turn a critical eye to those funds now.
The winner in the municipal-bond category is Eaton Vance National Municipals. I find very little to squabble with in this pick. Portfolio manager Thomas Metzold has posted a pretty impressive track record during more than 13 years of running this show. The fund has landed in the top percentile of municipal bond funds, as ranked by Morningstar, every year since 2002. Of course, the fund did have a few down years, most notably in 1999, but few muni-bond funds have been able to match Eaton's success in this category. Color me impressed.
Two funds managed to snag a winning spot in the high-yield category, the first of which is another Eaton Vance fund, Income Fund of Boston. Managers Michael Weilheimer and Thomas Huggins focus on the lower end of the quality spectrum, with roughly 89% of the portfolio held in below-investment-grade bonds. Performance has tracked the Credit Suisse High Yield Index rather closely, although it's beaten that bogey in only half of the past 10 calendar years. Overall, this a decent high-yield fund, but it's not necessarily one that has set the world on fire.
The second high-yield winner, Goldman Sachs High Yield, looks to be the better candidate. Manager Andrew Jessop, along with a team of four co-managers, employs a strict bottom-up research process that includes assessing a company's business risk as well as financial risk. Nearly the entire portfolio is held in below-investment-grade bonds, and turnover is a reasonable 41%. But performance here looks a bit brighter. The fund has ranked above median in Morningstar's high-yield bond universe every calendar year since its 1997 inception. High-yield bond funds are not for every investor, but if they make sense for you, this Goldman fund is a good option.
Coming up in Part 4: more fixed-income champs in the general bond category, including repeat wins from Dodge & Cox and Bill Gross.
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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.