Plus, Vanguard merges muni funds, Putnam makes more changes, and more.
Morningstar's fund analysts cover 2,000 mutual funds. Their full analyst reports, including Stewardship Grades, are available in Morningstar Principia Mutual Funds Advanced and Morningstar Advisor Workstation Office Edition.
A number of good funds reopened this week, including moderate-allocation offering Oakmark Equity & Income
The $12.5 billion Oakmark Equity & Income has lost less than its peers in the last turbulent year, but that hasn't stopped shareholders from leaving the fund. Outflows have increased as the fund's managers are finding more opportunities, comanager Clyde McGregor said in a news release. McGregor and comanager Edward Studzinski have an excellent track record. The fund ranks first in its category over the trailing three-, five-, and 10-year periods ending Nov. 5, 2008, and has a low 0.83% expense ratio. Also, both managers have a significant amount of their own money invested in the fund.
Vanguard International Explorer, which is run by Matthew Dobbs and his team at subadvisor Schroder Investment Management, first closed in August 2004 when it had $1.4 billion assets to preserve its ability to invest in less-liquid international small-cap stocks. In recent months shareholder redemptions combined with market declines have shrunk the fund's asset base to $1.1 billion as of Oct. 31. The fund is an attractive option for those seeking exposure to this often-volatile segment of the global market. Dobbs pays more attention to valuation than his peers and keeps the portfolio diversified across sectors and regions. He also keeps a below-average stake in emerging-markets stocks. Those factors have helped the fund lose less than its rivals for the year to date. This approach has led to competitive returns over the long haul as well. The fund has a dirt-cheap 0.35% expense ratio and requires a minimum investment of $25,000.
Vanguard Precious Metals and Mining, run by manager Graham French of subadvisor M&G Investment Management, closed in February 2006 to preserve his investment flexibility. Sharp drops in metals and other commodity prices have hurt the fund recently. It has fallen 57.3% for the year to date through Nov. 5, 2008, and resides in the precious-metals category's basement. Those losses and investor redemptions have reduced the fund's assets to $1.7 billion, less than a third of its June 2008 peak of $5.7 billion. Recent losses expose this fund's and this narrow sector of the market's risks, but this fund remains a worthy choice for those looking for exposure to precious-metals stocks. French is a bottom-up stock-picker who looks for companies trading below his estimates of their intrinsic worth. His portfolio is not only diversified across a variety of metals such as nickel, platinum, copper, and gold, but it also includes fertilizer and energy companies. With a 0.28% expense ratio the fund also is one of the cheapest precious-metals funds. The fund requires a minimum investment of $10,000.
Vanguard to Merge Muni Offerings
Vanguard has closed the $3.2 billion Vanguard Insured Long-Term Tax-Exempt
Putnam to Revamp Sector Funds and Launch New Offering
On Jan. 2, 2008, Putnam Utilities Growth & Income
Stock fund Putnam Health Sciences