This article was originally published on May 8, 2015. It was most recently updated on June 6, 2016.
Fidelity Investments offers a huge array of mutual funds, many of which are top performing low-cost options. But which are the best mutual funds? That depends on your perspective, but some funds certainly stand out.
Because Fidelity built its reputation as a stock-picking powerhouse, I'd argue that the best Fidelity funds are the actively managed choices that have the best records of performance relative to their competition.
To build the list below, I started by looking at all of the Fidelity funds that currently have a five-star overall rating from Morningstar, meaning that they rank in the top 10% of their peer groups. Then I eliminated index funds, "enhanced" index funds that rely on automated quantitative methodology rather than fundamental analysis, conservative fixed-income funds, and the funds from the Fidelity Select family that focus narrowly on one industry or sector.
That left 7 strong choices. Here they are, ranked in order of their three-year average annual total returns as of April 30.
Fidelity Contrafund (NASDAQMUTFUND:FCNTX) has long been one of the company's shining stars. Led by manager Will Danoff since 1990, Contrafund has posted market-beating performance for many years, and its average return (before taxes) over the last three years was 12.15%. That beats the S&P 500 Index by a bit, as does the fund's 10-year average of 8.03%.
Danoff is an old-school stock-picker: Contrafund has big holdings in Alphabet and Apple and Facebook, but its second-biggest holding (after Facebook) is Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. Turnover of 35% is modest (and down from 45% a year ago), and the fund's total expense ratio of 0.71% is quite reasonable.
Fidelity Global Equity Income Fund (NASDAQMUTFUND:FGILX) does what it says on the tin: It scours the world for "income-producing equity securities," or put another way, great dividend stocks. Manager Ramona Persaud's top holdings include some of the big dividend darlings you'd expect, like Johnson & Johnson and General Electric , but she also has a big position in Apple that gives the fund more varied exposure.
It's a new fund, founded in 2012, so it doesn't have a super-long track record of performance. But it has generated an average annual total return of 9.52% before taxes since its inception, well ahead of its benchmark index.
Fidelity Balanced Fund (NASDAQMUTFUND:FBALX) is run by a team of eleven managers who seek "income and capital growth consistent with reasonable risk". The fund's holdings are roughly two-thirds stocks, one-third bonds, and it has returned an average of 8.05% before taxes over the last three years.
Balanced Fund's biggest positions include tech heavyweights like Alphabet and Apple, along with less familiar manufacturing names like Ametek and Roper Technologies -- and a big position in U.S. Treasuries. The fund's turnover rate of 75% isn't bad, but it is a little bit on the high side. That's likely due to the bond portfolio, as expenses are low at just 0.56%.
Fidelity Strategic Dividend & Income Fund (NASDAQMUTFUND:FSDIX) seeks "reasonable income" with a portfolio of dividend stocks, REITs, and convertible and preferred stocks. Manager Joanna Bewick has run the fund since 2008, and her top holdings show a preference for big dividend stalwarts: Johnson & Johnson, Chevron, Proctor & Gamble, Pfizer, and other familiar names make up the fund's top-holdings list.
The fund's five-year pre-tax total return of 9.56% lags the S&P 500, but it's well ahead of the average performance within its Morningstar peer group. Turnover rate of 55% isn't bad, and the expense ratio of 0.78% is quite good for a fund like this.
Fidelity Overseas Fund (NASDAQMUTFUND:FOSFX), one of Fidelity's first global efforts, was founded way back in 1984. Manager Vincent Montemaggiore has run the fund since early 2012, and his top holdings include familiar global large-caps like Nestle, Sanofi, and Anheuser Busch Inbev.
Overseas large caps haven't been the strongest place to invest in recent years, but Montemaggiore has made the most of it. The fund's five-year pre-tax average annual return of 5.73% handily beats its benchmark, the MSCI EAFE Index. Expense ratio of 1.04% is modest for a global fund, and the low turnover rate (28%) suggests that Montemaggiore tends to hold his best ideas for a while. We like that.
Fidelity Capital & Income Fund (NASDAQMUTFUND:FAGIX) is an interesting beast: A mutual fund that specializes (mostly) in junk bonds. Manager Mark Notkin has run the fund since 2003, and he looks for companies that have low credit ratings (and thus high-yielding bonds) -- but also good management that is looking to turn things around. The fund has returned an average of 7.51% per year over the last ten years before taxes. Its 30-day yield was a solid 4.61% as of April 30.
The fund's top issuers include T-Mobile and Ally Financial, but the full list is a long one -- the fund held bonds from 395 different issuers as of March 31. Its expense ratio (0.72%) and turnover rate (40%) are both modest for a fund of this type.
Fidelity Total Emerging Markets Fund (NASDAQMUTFUND:FTEMX) "seeks to take advantage of disparate opportunities between emerging-market debt and emerging-market equity across countries and regions." In other words, it's free to buy both stocks and bonds, and normally has at least 60% in stocks. It's run by a team of six managers, four of whom have been with the fund since its launch in 2011. Top holdings include big Asian equities like Taiwan Semiconductor, Tencent Holdings, and China Mobile, along with high-yielding Russian government debt.
The fund's performance hasn't been great in absolute terms: It has returned an average of just 2.08% per year before taxes since inception. But that beats the negative performance of its benchmark (the MSCI Emerging Markets Index) over the same period. Turnover rate of 80% and a net expense ratio of 1.4% might seem high, but are actually pretty decent for a fund like this.