There’s a reason why the investment world has gone gaga for passive indexing and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). The biggest reason comes down to overall better returns. After all, most actively managed mutual funds and other investment vehicles with a human touch tend to lag the broader market. That’s partly due to their higher fee structure and inability to be fully invested.
But the key word in that previous sentence is “most.”
There are actually plenty of active mutual funds that are beating broader indexes and their benchmarks by a wide margin. The truth is, actively managed mutual funds aren’t dead — bad and underperforming active mutual funds are.
For investors, there are still plenty of gains to be had in active funds.
But given that there are more than 9,500 mutual funds currently on the market, how do you know which ones are worth your investment dollar? Look no further. Here at InvestorPlace we’ve done some of the digging for you. Here are five actively managed mutual funds worth buying today.
Actively Managed Mutual Funds to Buy: Vanguard Selected Value Fund (VASVX)
Expense Ratio: 0.39%
Minimum Investment: $3,000
One of the real places that active management can succeed is in smaller stocks. Typically, both small- and mid-cap stocks often are ignored by major research houses and analysts. That’s because mega-sized institutional investors and mutual funds need the liquidity that comes along with mega-sized stocks.
Managers focusing on this area of the market can find some real diamonds in the rough. Even more so when they focus on “value” stocks.
The Vanguard Selected Value Fund Investor Shares (MUTF:VASVX ) is a great active mutual fund choice to take advantage of this fact.
VASVX seeks to grow capital overt he long haul by betting on small- and mid-cap stocks. The fund then applies fundamental analysis to find those stocks that are undervalued and out of favor. The combination is a powerful one-two punch that has delivered a 10.62% annual return over the last ten years. More importantly, that return has managed to beat its benchmark by a decent margin. As an added bonus, the focus on value helps the fund be an interesting income producing pick as well, with a yield of 1.9%.
And because it’s a Vanguard fund, VASVX is a cheap option as well. The mutual fund only charges 0.39%, or $39 per $10,000 invested.
All in all, VASVX is a great choice for investors looking to play the middle of the market.
Actively Managed Mutual Funds to Buy: Fidelity Focused Stock (FTQGX)
Expense Ratio: 0.57%
Minimum Investment: $2,500
One of the other great ways to beat the market is by concentrating your picks. So-called high conviction funds only hold a handful of stocks that the managers believe will provide great returns. The Fidelity Focused Stock (MUTF:FTQGX) is a great, low-cost way to do just that.
As the name implies, FTQGX is focused on a few stocks. In this case, the mutual fund will own between 30 and 80 different names. These can be either growth or value stocks that the managers think will outperform over the longer haul — although, lately the focus has been very on growth names. Tech dominates the top ten holdings of FTQGX. Salesforce (NYSE:CRM), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) and Square (NYSE:SQ) are just some of the mutual fund’s holdings.
That high concentration and focus on tech has allowed FTQGX to crush the S&P 500. Over the last year, the fund has far outstripped the return of the benchmark, and over the last 10 years, it still comes out ahead.
In the end, FTQGX is a great example of how active management can produce better returns for a portfolio. Expenses for the fund clocks in at just 0.57%.
Actively Managed Mutual Funds to Buy: Payden & Rygel Corporate Bond Fund (PYACX)
Expense Ratio: 0.65%
Minimum Investment: $5,000
Another fruitful place for active management? Fixed-income mutual funds. Those managers who specialize in credit analysis and bonds often outperform their benchmarks and deliver higher yields/income. One of the better bond shops out there with a very large in-house credit team is Payden & Rygel.
The Payden & Rygel Corporate Bond Fund (MUTF:PYACX) is a great example of their efforts.
PYACX prime M.O. is corporate bonds. However, it’s given free reign in the segment of the fixed income world. That means its managers can bet on both investment grade and junk bonds as well as various maturity profiles and durations. PYACX can even own emerging market and foreign issued corporate debt if it’s so inclined. The idea is to get a great total return- both capital appreciation and dividend income from its portfolio.
So far, its delivered on that promise. The fund has been in the top tier of its fund category and has earned five stars from Morningstar by beating its benchmark.
And as fellow InvestorPlace contributor Todd Shriber has pointed out, the fund is a great low-cost choice as well. Expenses run at just 0.65%. That’s well below the sector average.
Actively Managed Mutual Funds to Buy: Buffalo Dividend Focus Fund (BUFDX)
Expense Ratio: 0.95%
Minimum Investment: $2,500
Those investors seeking to grow their income over time can turn to active mutual funds as well. Historically, firms that constantly raise their payouts on the back on growing earnings/revenues have been some of the biggest drivers of the overall market. That makes the Buffalo Dividend Focus Fund (MUTF:BUFDX) a top mutual fund to buy.
BUFDX is a relatively new fund, but its already a top performer. Managers at the mutual fund comb through the investment world and seek to find those stocks that stocks that have grown their payouts over time. There’s no hard and fast rule about what that time is, such as 10 or 25 years. But what they do look at it is stocks with at least a market value of $1 billion and a minimum yield of 2%. From there, BUFDX will look at various cash flow, debt and revenue metrics to make sure stocks are the real deal.
This has worked in the mutual fund’s favor.
While the fund has slightly underperformed the broader S&P 500, it has been far less volatile than the benchmark and BUFDX has managed to crush Lipper Equity Income Funds Index by more than 3 percentage points per year. That’s a benchmark that solely looks at dividend stock mutual funds.
Also working in the fund’s favor is its small size.
Actively Managed Mutual Funds to Buy: JPMorgan Global Allocation Fund (GAOAX)
Expense Ratio: 1.07%
Minimum Investment: $1,000
Load: 4.5% (Waived at some brokerages)
It’s a big world out there, and it can be hard to keep track of it all. It’s even harder to comb through all asset classes and world regions to find the best opportunities. That’s where world allocation funds come in. They basically shift their assets around to find the best bets for the current market. They can be a fruitful place for top active mutual funds to thrive.
The JPMorgan Global Allocation Fund (MUTF:GAOAX) makes a great choice.
As a go anywhere fund, GAOAX can, well, go anywhere and buy anything. That includes U.S. stocks, foreign bonds, you name it. And the fund really does spread the love around. The idea is that GAOAX will craft a portfolio for current and near-term market conditions to take full advantage of the environment. And it’s very successful at that.
GAOAX has managed to dominate rivals and more than double the cumulative performance of similar-styled mutual funds and has earned a bronze rating from Morningstar. For a core portfolio option, it’s simply one of the best mutual funds around.
Now, the fund does leverage a sales load. But the fund is available at many brokerages with the load waved. That instantly makes it a much better fund and improves performance. For investors looking for an active core, GAOAX is a prime bet.
As of this writing Aaron Levitt did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities