Thankfully for investors, 2010 was a solid year for the stock market. While I'm sure we're all glad to have made back some of the money we lost in the previous bear market, some folks did better than others last year.
To give kudos to those fund managers who really knocked it out of the park, Morningstar bestows its annual Fund Manager of the Year award upon three deserving managers or management teams. These pros have risen to the top of their game in 2010 and beyond -- but should you own their funds? Let's take a look at Morningstar's winners in each category.
Domestic Equity Manager of the Year
Robert Goldfarb and David Poppe of Sequoia Fund (SEQUX)
Sequoia is an old-timer of a fund, dating back to 1970. Goldfarb and Poppe look for top-quality companies with healthy balance sheets and strong competitive advantages. At last glance, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway
Other plays include two firms in the auto parts business -- Advance Auto Parts
Overall, I think Sequoia is a pretty decent fund option. It's hard to argue with its long-term results -- the fund ranks in the top 4% of its peer group over the past decade and a half. However, investors should realize that the fund is fairly concentrated. There are roughly 30 holdings in the portfolio, mostly concentrated in just three sectors. Health-care, financial, and consumer services stocks together account for nearly 72% of fund assets. Investors might want to consider a broader, more diversified large-cap fund for the core of their portfolio and use Sequoia as a more strategic overlay.
International Equity Manager of the Year
Brent Lynn of Janus Overseas (JAOSX)
Janus Overseas invests in fast-growing foreign stocks, from both developed and emerging nations. Right now, emerging markets account for just over 30% of fund assets, although that number has been much higher in the past. In fact, this emerging markets exposure has no doubt been a large part of the reason why the fund outranks 96% of all foreign large-cap growth funds in the past decade. Of course, the fund also currently devotes almost 20% of assets to U.S.-based stocks with meaningful growth potential. For instance, Lynn thinks that battered companies Ford Motor
I don't think Janus Overseas is a bad fund by any means. I think there's a lot to be said for Lynn's aggressive investment approach. However, the fund did endure a spell of lagging the performance of the MSCI EAFE index from 2000 to 2004 before its hefty emerging markets exposure began to pay off. This fund is definitely not for risk-shy investors, and it could stumble again if emerging markets cool off. Conservative foreign investors might do better with a more diversified and balanced fund like Scout International (UMBWX). However, if you're willing to take on more risk and ride the wave of emerging markets' fortune, Janus Overseas could make a good supplemental foreign option.
Fixed Income Manager of the Year
Michael Hasenstab of Templeton Global Bond (TPINX)
This fund employs top-down, macroeconomic analysis to identify attractive regional investment opportunities. Manager Hasenstab has more than a decade of experience with the fund and isn't afraid to veer from benchmark weightings. For some time now, the fund has underweighted more indebted developed nations and regions like Japan, the U.S., and the eurozone. Instead, much of the fund's focus is on more solvent emerging countries like South Korea and Brazil. This positioning helped the fund immensely in 2010's market. Longer term, the fund sits in the top 1% of all world bond funds over the past decade, thanks to Hasenstab's disciplined approach.
I think this world bond fund is one of the category's better options. However, it does feature a front-end load, so investors should probably look for another no-load fund unless they can purchase Templeton Global Bond in their employer-sponsored retirement plan where these loads are frequently waived. World bond funds also tend to be more volatile than domestic bond funds, so they're not as appropriate for risk-averse investors whose first concern is preservation of capital. But if you're looking for foreign bond exposure, this fund has been a steady and consistent performer over the years and would be a fine addition for many portfolios.
For the most part, I think Morningstar's selections for Manager of the Year are decent. The funds chosen may not be my first choice in their respective asset classes, but investors should do fairly well with these options. As with any ratings or award system, don't rely solely on these accolades when making fund selections. Be sure to do your own research and look behind the numbers to get a better idea if the fund is really right for you.
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. Berkshire Hathaway is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Berkshire Hathaway and Ford Motor are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. The Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and Bank of America, and through a separate account in its Rising Star Portfolios also has a short position in Bank of America. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.
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