Finding a good fund that invests in stocks of small companies is becoming increasingly difficult. Many popular and top-performing funds have closed to new investors.
But there are still plenty of good funds available.Of the 400 no-load funds in the Morningstar database with median market values of $1 billion or less, about 375 remain open. Such funds are especially attractive now, because stocks of small companies have lagged those of large companies for several years.
Listed below are five attractive small-company funds, several of them particularly promising because they have small asset bases.
For the value funds, we limited our search to those that returned at least an annualized 20 percent over the past three years:
- Meridian Value (three-year annualized return through July 31, 23 percent; total assets, $12 million; 800-446-6662). Run by veteran manager Richard Aster, the fund buys beaten-down stocks with low price-to-book ratios.
- Schroder U.S. Smaller Companies (21 percent; $54 million; 800-963-6786). This fund seeks companies with increasing profit margins and low price-earnings ratios. Manager Fariba Talebi looks for underfollowed stocks.
- Westcore Small Cap Opportunity (20 percent; $68 million; 800-392-2673). Westcore looks for cheap stocks, as measured by such criteria as price-earnings ratio and price-to-book ratios. But Manager Varilyn Shock won't buy a beaten-down stock unless the company's fortunes are improving.
Small-company growth funds have encountered particularly heavy sledding the past several years. Limiting ourselves to funds with at least 20 percent annualized gains over the past five years, we identified these two:
- PBHG Emerging Growth (five-year annualized return, 21 percent; $1.3 billion; 800-433-0051). It buys small-company stocks whose profits are rising rapidly. When its earnings-momentum style comes back into favor, this fund should soar.
- Robertson Stephens Emerging Growth (21 percent; $327 million; 800-766-3863). The fund spreads its bets among 140 companies with fast-growing earnings. Manager James Callinan looks for well-managed companies that are financially strong and have proprietary products.