2012 has been a volatile year for technology stocks. Companies like Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM), Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) and Nokia (NYSE:NOK) have seen major losses, and the pain also has spread across thought-to-be-hot social operators like Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN) and Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA).
Despite this, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’s generally bearish on the growth prospects for technology, especially over the long term.
A great way to make such a broad, directional bet is either through a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund. These vehicles can help juice up your portfolio while offering you the protection of diversification. But how should you invest? To start, here are five funds to explore:
Allianz RCM Technology Fund
Since 1995, Huachen Chen and Walter Price have managed the Allianz RCM Technology A (MUTF:RAGTX) fund, which currently wields $957 million in assets. The pair’s record is sterling, with an average annual return of about 13% during their tenure.
To reduce the portfolio’s risk, Chen and Price focus on large tech operators like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), but still harness scrappy growth plays like Fusion-io (NYSE:FIO) and Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA). Portfolio turnover is a hefty 171% per year, so the pair clearly aren’t afraid to unload underperforming stocks.
The fund is costly, though — RAGTX charges 1.6% in expenses as well as a 5.5% load fee. But it requires just a $1,000 minimum investment, and does garner a 4-star Morningstar rating.
Waddell & Reed Science & Technology Fund
The Waddell & Reed Science & Technology A (MUTF:UNSCX) fund has a broad mandate. Not only does it own the usual tech suspects like Apple and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), but it also holds traditional companies that benefit from technological innovations, such as insurer UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) and seed & chemicals giant Monsanto (NYSE:MON).
While UNSCX’s portfolio manager Zach Shafran does look for growth opportunities, he still is disciplined when it comes to valuations — his hope is to avoid suffering huge drops in his holdings, though it occasionally means missing out on short-term moves in the sector.
Regardless, UNSCX has proven to be strong over the past decade, with an average annual return of 11.26%. Expenses are reasonable at 1.35%, but UNSCX also has a 5.75% load fee; however, you need just $500 to get into the fund. Waddell & Reed Science & Tech also boasts a 4-star rating.
Buffalo Discovery Fund
The core focus of the Buffalo Discovery (MUTF:BUFTX) fund is to search for plays in megatrends, such as cloud computing, mobile and biotechnology. Then, BUFTX will engage in deep analysis of each company, including poring into the management team and seeking out strong free cash flows, scalable business models and competitive advantages.