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Meet the Fund That Has Topped the S&P 500 Each Year Since 1999

Plus, Oppenheimer settles with Illinois, more.

Morningstar Analysts, 12/30/2009

The end of a year is always accompanied by "best of" and "worst of" lists. In that spirit, especially at the closing of a decade bookended by wild market behavior, we thought it would be interesting to compile a list of domestic-equity funds that have topped the S&P 500 Index each calendar year since 1999. We excluded funds that weren't also on track to beat the index this year.

This exercise started, of course, with Bill Miller of Legg Mason Capital Management Value LMVTX. Just four years ago the fund beat the S&P 500 for an unprecedented 15 calendar years in a row. In the first part of the decade, every December buzzed with talk about if he would do it again. Miller's back ahead of the index this year with a nearly 41% return through Dec. 22. The streak is history, though, and few people even bring it up anymore. There are other funds, however, that have pretty good streaks going.

The list is small. In fact, it only contains one fund: Manning & Napier Pro-Blend Max Term EXHAX. It's one of Manning & Napier's four life-cycle funds, and it holds a mix of stocks, bonds, and cash. But with 93% of its assets in stocks, it's more fully invested that a lot of its large-blend category peers. As associate director of fund analysis Michael Breen noted in his recent analysis of the fund, "It has produced outsized gains in a variety of buoyant markets and has held up better than nearly all its rivals in bear markets." For example, when the S&P 500 lost 22% in 2002, this fund lost 18.3%, landing well within the category's top quartile. In 2008, the index tumbled 37%, while this fund lost 35.4%, another top-quartile performance.

The fund's adeptness has been on full display during 2009's market rally. As of Dec. 22, it's up 35.7%, easily topping the index's gain of 26.7%

If we use the same index-beating requirements but start our search in 2000, the list expands to include a group of mainly small- and mid-cap funds (the lone large cap on the list is American Independent Stock ISISX). Leading the pack for the year to date is Wells Fargo Advantage Small Cap Opp NVSOX, up 33.6%.

US Equity Funds beating the S&P 500 annually since 2000, including YTD 2009
Manning&Nap Pro-Bl MaxTerm EXHAX
Wells Fargo Advantage Small Cap Opp NVSOX
Schroder US Opportunities SCUIX
American Indep Stock ISISX
Lord Abbett Small-Cap Value LRSCX
Gabelli Small Cap Growth GABSX
CRM Mid Cap Value CRIMX
Return Date of 12/22/09.

TCW Names New Fund President
December has been a busy month at TCW Group, as Morningstar has reported. This week, TCW named Chuck Baldiswieler president and CEO of the Strategic Income Fund and the TCW funds. He replaces Ron Redell, who joined ousted bond manager Jeffrey Gundlach's new firm, DoubleLine.PAGEBREAK

Oppenheimer Settles with Illinois
Illinois is the latest state to finalize a settlement with OppenheimerFunds to resolve an investigation into losses in the state's Bright Start 529 college savings plan, which Oppenheimer subsidiary OFI Private Investments still manages. Under the terms of the settlement, the fund family will pay Illinois $77.3 million, which will be distributed to eligible plan shareholders.

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