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A Dividend Fund With a Defensive Disposition

Dan Culloton

Dan Culloton: The Morningstar Medalist of the Week is BlackRock Equity Dividend (MDDVX). It may look like there are a couple of warning flags over this fund: Its performance over the last five years is in the bottom quartile of the large-value category, and it recently hired a new manager. But these concerns are less than they seem.

First, the performance is not out of character with what we would expect from this fund. This is a fund that focuses on cheap stocks that pay dividends, particularly stocks that can increase and grow their dividends over time. Those tend to be more defensive stocks, and you'd expect this type of strategy to lag a bit in a period when there's a strong rally, which we've had in the last five years.

And if you look at the absolute returns, and you didn't know anything about what the market did and you saw that you gained 12.5% to 12.7%, I think most people would say that's a pretty decent absolute return. So, it has delivered absolute returns and not been out of character. So, performance has not been that big of a problem.

The new manager, Anthony DeSpirito, is actually an addition to the team rather than a replacement to the team. He joins an experienced team led by Bob Shearer of BlackRock and before that of Merrill Lynch. And they still follow the same dividend-focused value strategy that they always have. We still think this is a very solid fund. It has an experienced team. It has an established process. It has reasonable fees and has a decent long-term track record.