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Fund Times: Comanager of Big Putnam Fund Hits the Road

Plus, other manager shuffles, Janus' newest fund, and more.

Morningstar Analysts, 12/03/2007

Putnam Fund for Growth & Income PGRWX is down a manager. Josh Brooks, whose addition to the fund's management team in 2005 came as part of a plan to reverse struggling returns across Putnam's large-cap lineup, has left the firm. During Brooks' tenure, Fund for Growth & Income has badly lagged its typical large-value peer. The fund's 2006 return trailed about 80% of its category rivals, and it's looking even worse in late 2007 as the fund has owned several poor performers including Citigroup C and Countrywide Financial CFC. The fund's longer-term record isn't much better, and investors have been fleeing this fund for years (though it still holds a significant $10 billion in assets). Comanagers Eric Harthun and Putnam veteran David King remain skippers here.

Brooks' departure also will have a broader impact at Putnam. He was leader of the firm's large-cap equities team, and he supervised the firm's central pool of stock researchers, who have run Putnam Research PNRAX with lackluster results. Putnam has said that it plans to beef up its analyst team in 2008.

Janus Joins International Real Estate Fray
Janus Capital's latest fund--launched on Nov. 28--looks to benefit from increasing property values worldwide. Janus Adviser Global Real Estate JERSX will be managed by Patrick Brophy, a former real estate professional with more than 15 years' experience, with assistance from Janus' equity team. We haven't gotten a look at the portfolio's holdings yet, but this fund will likely hold both U.S. and non-U.S. real estate stocks. As an aside, Morningstar analysts covering overseas markets note that while investing in real estate is a popular activity overseas, many foreign real estate markets haven't seen gains as steep as those of the U.S. real estate market in recent years. (And its subsequent pullback this year--through 2007's first three quarters, the typical domestic real estate fund had returned negative 2.93%, the worst average of any Morningstar specialty-sector group.) So investors seeking to diversify into real estate stocks may have a wiser choice with a globally oriented fund.

Eaton Vance Shuffles Managers Just a Bit
Eaton Vance Floating Rate's
EVBLX Payson Swaffield has left the fund for the role of chief investment officer for the firm's income funds. The second-largest entrant in the bank-loan category, the fund still retains comanager and 18-year bank-loan veteran Scott Page, a member of the management team since 2001. He is now joined by Craig Russ, a 10-year veteran of bank-loan analysis at Eaton Vance. Shareholders here remain in good hands.

Hotchkis and Wiley Re-Opens Two Funds to New Investors
Hotchkis and Wiley Core Value
HWCAX and Hotchkis and Wiley Mid-Cap Value HWMAX are accepting assets from new investors once again. Originally closed in 2006 and 2004, respectively, both funds are badly lagging their peer groups in 2007. New assets should help offset resulting outflows. This looks to be a buying opportunity for investors who like independent-minded managers that aren't afraid to take chances. As we note in recent analyses of these funds, they are good buy-and-hold offerings that will occasionally look out-of-step with their competitors.

First Trust Launches Global Dividend ETF
First Trust Dow Jones Global Select Dividend FGD is now on the market. Named after the index it tracks, the fund will own 100 of the top dividend payers from the globe's 24 most-developed nations. The fund launched last week, and, at first glance, its top 10 holdings look to include several telecom, energy, and industrial firms. The fund's target expense ratio is 0.60%.

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