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Big Funds that Avoided Troubled Financials

Which mutual funds have managed to sidestep the carnage?

David Kathman, 09/30/2008

The past few weeks have been among the most dramatic in the history of Wall Street, reshaping the financial industry in fundamental ways. The federal government placed mortgage giants Fannie Mae FNM and Freddie Mac FRE in conservatorship and took effective control of insurance giant AIG AIG with an $85 billion loan. Of the four big investment banks remaining after the collapse of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers is now bankrupt, Merrill Lynch MER is being bought by Bank of America BAC, and Goldman Sachs GS and Morgan Stanley MS are morphing into bank holding companies, subjecting themselves to greater capital requirements and regulatory oversight. All this has resulted in the Treasury Department proposing a $700 billion bailout designed to keep the economy from grinding to a halt.

As the crisis has unfolded, we've been looking at how the battered stocks of these Wall Street giants are affecting mutual fund investors. What about funds that have avoided the whole mess? We thought it would be interesting to look at funds whose most recent portfolio did not include any of the seven troubled giants: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, or Morgan Stanley. Any such list is somewhat arbitrary, as there are plenty of financial stocks that have also been punished badly, but this one is sort of a mirror image of our lists of funds with the biggest exposure to those same seven stocks.PAGEBREAK

Even if we limit ourselves to diversified large-cap funds, there are almost 600 funds with no investment in the seven stocks. The following table shows the 10 largest, with each fund's category, the size of its asset base, the date of its most recent portfolio, its year-to-date return as of September 25, and its percentile ranking within its category.

 Biggest Large-Cap Funds with No Exposure


% Rank
Vanguard Growth Index VIGRX
Large Growth
16,598.3 06-30-08 -16.76 19
Calamous Growth CVGRX
Large Growth
13,060.5 06-30-08 -26.41 94
Longleaf Partners LLPFX
Large Blend
12,096.0 06-30-08 -21.65 85
GMO U.S. Quality Equity III GQETX
Large Blend
10,045.3 05-31-08 -12.96 6
Fairholme Fund FAIRX
Large Blend
9,601.1 03-31-08 -5.87 1
Vanguard Capital Opportunity VHCOX
Large Growth
8,901.9 06-30-08 -15.78 14
Columbia Marsico 21st Century NMTAX
Large Growth
8,108.8 07-31-08 -23.86 85
Large Blend
8,098.6 06-30-08 -17.77 37
Allianz NFJ Dividend Value NFJEX
Large Value
8,097.3 07-31-08 -14.84 14
Fidelity Capital Appreciation FDCAX
Large Growth
7,063.3 07-31-08 -21.75 69
* As of 09-25-2008.

Several of these funds have done quite well this year in relative terms, notably Fairholme FAIRX. That fund is actually overweight in financials relative to its category and the S&P 500, but the managers specifically avoided the likes of Lehman Brothers and AIG because of those firms' exposure to the complex derivatives that eventually took them down. Of the other funds on the list, several have little or no financial exposure in general, and CGM Focus CGMFX even has short positions in a number of financial stocks, though it has been pummeled recently by its huge energy and basic-materials stakes. Calamos Growth CVGRX and Columbia Marsico 21st Century NMTAX have done poorly this year because of their focus on traditional growth stocks, which have been hurt over fears about the economy.PAGEBREAK

It's not too surprising to see growth and blend funds avoiding prominent financial stocks, but it's more unusual for value funds, which tend to be heavy in financials. Only about 90 large-value funds have completely avoided our seven stocks, as opposed to nearly 500 large-blend and large-growth funds. The following table shows the 10 largest, which are much smaller as a group than the funds in the first table. (Because these are all large-value funds, there's no need to show each fund's category.)

 Biggest Large-Value Funds with No Exposure


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