Part 1 of this series started by taking a look at the top managers in Barron's annual fund rankings. Below, we continue our tour of these top funds.
The Boston Company International Small-Cap Fund (SDISX)
Ironically, the second small/mid-foreign stock fund in our countdown underwent a manager change just after the Barron's rankings were released. Former manager Daniel LeVan was replaced in recent weeks by William Patzer, which should be enough to make potential shareholders rethink their investment. And that's unfortunate, because this fund has done a decent job of generating positive returns. The fund's five-year annualized return of 28.8% through August lands it among the top 5% of its peer group, despite a rather subpar showing so far in 2007.
The Boston Company International Small-Cap Fund invests in both developed and emerging companies, and it's heavily weighted to the industrial materials and financial sectors. The fund sports a reasonable 1.11% net expense ratio and low 15% turnover. However, its hefty $100,000 minimum investment and its recent manager change may prompt investors to look for their foreign small-cap exposure somewhere else.
Perritt Micro-Cap Opportunities (PRCGX)
This fund lands at the No. 5 spot in the rankings. Perritt Micro-Cap Opportunities is run by longtime managers Michael Corbett and Gerald Perritt. As its name implies, the fund focuses on the smallest of companies -- those under $750 million in market capitalization. And it has done this very well, posting a 15-year annualized return of 14.1% through August. With the exception of some lagging returns in the late 1990s, this fund has rarely failed to deliver positive results. Management does tend to hold higher cash stakes at times, so keep an eye out for that.
Perritt Micro-Cap Opportunities is fairly well-diversified for a micro-cap fund, and expenses here are fair. Investors should remember that micro-caps are a very volatile segment of the market and can bring wide swings from time to time. But if you have a space in your portfolio earmarked for these tiny companies, this fund is a great choice to give you that exposure.
Fidelity Leveraged Company Stock (FLVCX)
This Fidelity fund has been led by manager Thomas Soviero since mid-2003. Fidelity Leveraged Company Stock invests in companies that issue lower-quality debt and companies with leveraged capital structures. As a result, the fund tends to hover more in mid-cap territory, with holdings such as Teekay
Soviero has done an admirable job since taking over. He's beaten both the broad market and the mid-cap benchmark by a wide margin each year of his tenure. The fund's trailing three-year and five-year returns land it at the very top of its peer group. And its 0.86% expense ratio makes it even more attractive for potential fundholders. Because of its focus on highly leveraged companies, this fund may be a bit riskier than most mid-cap funds, and it's likely to experience more volatility. But if you're willing to take on that risk in the mid-cap portion of your portfolio, Fidelity Leveraged Company Stock may be a good fit for you.
Legg Mason Opportunity (LMNOX)
Legg Mason Opportunity is run by Bill Miller of Legg Mason Value Trust
Miller's prowess as a stock picker is well-known, and investors should be happy to own any fund he manages. That said, however, the fee structures on this particular fund present a few challenges to ownership. The institutional share class requires an onerous $1 million minimum, and the financial intermediary shares sport an expensive 1.60% expense ratio. Faced with such charges, investors would likely be better off trolling for a cheaper mid-cap fund elsewhere.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series, where we wrap up our look at the top funds and fund managers from Barron's annual rankings.
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