Screens and scoreboards are great tools for identifying potential investments quickly. But when you get hundreds of choices, you're going to need more help. That's where the 2006 Standard & Poor's/BusinessWeek Excellence in Fund Management Awards come in handy.
Fund selection starts with 810 funds rated A or B+ for the five years ended Dec. 31, 2005, in the BusinessWeek Mutual Fund Scoreboard (BW -- Jan. 23). Our ratings are based on risk-adjusted total returns, an evaluation that favors funds with strong and steady returns, not necessarily those with the greatest gains. We then apply other criteria: assets of at least $100 million, a manager with at least five years' tenure, and a minimum investment of less than $26,000. Also, of course, the fund should be open to new investors. That's the reason two of last year's winners, Julius Baer International Equity and Laudus Rosenberg International Small Cap, are no longer on the list. They're closed to new shareholders.
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Once a fund has jumped all those hurdles, S&P's fund analysts conduct in-depth, face-to-face interviews with managers to quiz them on investment practices. (S&P, like BusinessWeek, is owned by The McGraw-Hill Companies (MHP).
The result? A list of 18 funds that feature consistent investment philosophies and security selection guided by seasoned pros. "While you can't guarantee future returns, we have confidence these managers can run these funds no matter what comes their way," says S&P mutual fund strategist Roseanne Pane. Among the eight first- time winners are Janus Mid Cap Value Fund (JMCUX) and Stratton Growth Fund (STRGX). Repeaters include Bill Miller's Legg Mason Value Trust (LMVTX) and the team-managed Growth Fund of America (AGTHX).
On the pages that follow, you'll find profiles of four of our newcomers. For information on the other 14 funds, plus Q&As, free S&P reports, and other fund-picking tools, go to BusinessWeek Online. Choosing funds is a lot easier if knowledgeable folks have already done some of the work.
By Lauren Young