Mutual fund investors were probably asking themselves just that at the end of the third quarter as tragic hurricanes pounded the Gulf coast, and interest rates and oil prices rose.
Still, U.S. equity funds held up and posted respectable gains in the third quarter. The average domestic stock fund rose 4.6% for the three months ended September 30, versus a gain of 3.5% for the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index. Year-to-date, the average domestic stock fund is up 4.3%, versus 2.7% for the S&P 500.
All fund categories finished the quarter in positive territory. Mid-cap growth funds came in first, gaining 6.1% on average. Large-cap value portfolios showed the smallest increases, rising 3.6%. Indeed, growth-oriented funds outperformed their value counterparts for the period. The average growth fund advanced 5.6%, versus a 4.5% gain for the average value fund. However, value funds still reign supreme so far this year, gaining 5.4%, versus a gain of 4.5% for the average growth fund. In fact, all fund style categories are in the black year-to-date, with mid-cap blend funds in first place, up 6.8%.
Energy did its part to power stock funds during the quarter. The top overall performing portfolio, Scudder Commodity Securities Fund/Instl (SKIRX), gained 18.5% for the three months. The $62-million large-cap blend fund holds 81 securities and has 56% of its assets invested in energy stocks, and 42% in materials. The fund, which was just launched in February, has 53% of its assets in the U.S., and 18% in the U.K.
In the top-performing mid-cap growth category, Hennessy Focus 30 (HFTFX), was the best individual performer, rising 16.1% during the quarter, and 32.4% year-to-date. As of August 31, the $102.6-million fund had 37.5% of its assets in energy stocks, and 30.2% in consumer discretionary issues. The absolute best performer year-to-date was CGM Focus Fund (CGMFX), returning a whopping 34.3% for the period, and 17.4% in the third quarter. The $1.5-billion small-cap value fund, run by Kenneth Heebner, has 63% of its assets in energy, and 34% in materials.