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By Money
December 22, 2015

The funds listed in the tables below topped their respective categories—but don’t judge your investment performance relative only to these outliers. To see how your portfolio did compared to fund investors in general, check out the industry overview in our 2015 Fund Investor’s Scorecard.

Large-Cap Stocks
Funds holding big, household-name consumer stocks (think Starbucks and Nike) got a boost in 2015. Over the longer haul, indexing the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 was the way to win.
Rank Fund name (Ticker) Return Exp. Ratio
1 Polen Growth Investor (POLRX) 16.9% 1.25%
2 Prudential Jennison Select Growth A (SPFAX)1 16.9% 1.25%
3 Dunham Focused Large Cap Growth A (DAFGX)1 14.5% 1.40%
4 Janus Forty A (JDCAX)1 16.9% 1.25%
5 Prudential Jennison Growth A (PJFAX)1 16.9% 1.25%
6 TCW Select Equities I (TGCEX) 16.9% 1.25%
7 Morgan Stanley Institutional Advantage A (MAPPX) 16.9% 1.25%
8 Harbor Capital Appreciation Investor (HCAIX) 16.9% 1.25%
9 T. Rowe Price Blue Chip Growth (TRBCX) 16.9% 1.25%
10 Saratoga Large Capitalization Growth I (SLCGX) 16.9% 1.25%
Midcap U.S. Stock
Growth-oriented funds in this category have eclipsed their bargain-seeking peers over the long and short term, in part because of fast-growing health care and consumer stocks.
Rank Fund name (Ticker) Return Exp. Ratio
1 Eaton Vance-Atlanta Capital SMID-Cap A (EAASX)1,2 12.2% 1.23%
2 BlackRock Mid-Cap Growth Equity A (BMGAX)1 9.1% 1.39%
3 T. Rowe Price Mid-Cap Growth (RPMGX)2 8.4% 0.77%
4 Oppenheimer Discovery Mid Cap Growth A (OEGAX)1 8.2% 1.36%
5 Tocqueville Opportunity Fund (TOPPX) 7.7% 1.30%
6 Buffalo Discovery (BUFTX) 7.4% 1.01%
7 PowerShares S&P MidCap Low Volatility (XMLV) 7.3% 0.25%
8 PowerShares DWA Nasdaq Momentum (DWAQ) 6.9% 0.60%
9 Guggenheim S&P MidCap 400 Pure Growth ETF (RFG) 6.8% 0.35%
10 MFS Mid Cap Growth A (OTCAX)1 6.5% 1.20%
Small-Cap U.S. Stock
Growth also led among small-company funds in 2015, largely thanks to a boom in biotech and pharmaceuticals. That’s in contrast with 2014, when cheap small-cap stocks reigned.
Rank Fund name (Ticker) Return Exp. Ratio
1 Nationwide Geneva Small Cap Growth A (NWHZX)1 13.4% 1.57%
2 Oberweis Emerging Growth (OBEGX) 12.6% 1.49%
3 Brown Capital Management Small Company (BCSIX)2 11.9% 1.26%
4 Aberdeen Small Cap A (GSXAX) 11.4% 1.47%
5 Oberweis Micro-Cap (OBMCX) 10.8% 1.71%
6 PNC Small Cap A (PPCAX)1 10.5% 1.29%
7 Brown Advisory Small-Cap Growth (BIASX) 10.2% 1.14%
8 PNC Multi-Factor Small Cap Growth A (PLWAX)1 10.1% 1.15%
9 Nationwide Small Company Growth A (NWSAX)1 9.7% 1.34%
10 Fidelity Advisor Small Cap Growth A (FCAGX)1 9.0% 1.22%
International Stock
Though global stocks suffered overall in 2015, funds holding tech and health care names galloped ahead. So did those that captured Japan’s market rally—and avoided the hardest-hit Chinese stocks.
Rank Fund name (Ticker) Return Exp. Ratio
1 Market Vectors ChinaAMC SME-ChiNext ETF (CNXT) 48.2% 0.66%
2 WisdomTree Japan Hedged Health Care (DXJH) 36.9% 0.48%
3 Deutsche X-trckrs Hrvst CSI 500 Chi A-Shares Small Cap ETF (ASHS) 28.5% 0.80%
4 T. Rowe Price Global Technology (PRGTX) 23.7% 0.91%
5 Matthews Japan Investor (MJFOX) 22.0% 1.03%
6 iShares MSCI Denmark Capped ETF (EDEN) 21.2% 0.53%
7 Morgan Stanley Institutional Global Opportunity A (MGGPX)1 20.5% 1.45%
8 iShares MSCI Ireland Capped ETF (EIRL) 19.4% 0.48%
9 KraneShares CSI China Internet ETF (KWEB) 19.4% 0.71%
10 PowerShares Golden Dragon China (PGJ) 18.6% 0.70%
Balanced
These funds can own a mix of both stocks and bonds. In keeping with the trend among pure equity funds, growth-oriented balanced portfolios fared best this past year.
Rank Fund name (Ticker) Return Exp. Ratio
1 T. Rowe Price Capital Appreciation (PRWCX)2 6.9% 0.70%
2 PSI Strategic Growth A (FXSAX)1 4.3% 2.21%
3 Sector Rotation (NAVFX) 4.2% 2.11%
4 Aston/Montag & Caldwell Balanced N (MOBAX) 4.1% 1.36%
5 Eaton Vance Balanced A (EVIFX)1 4.0% 1.05%
6 Sit Balanced (SIBAX) 3.9% 1.00%
7 American Funds Growth Portfolio A (GWPAX)1 3.8% 0.75%
8 Fidelity Puritan (FPURX) 3.3% 0.56%
9 American Funds American Balanced A (ABALX)1 3.3% 0.56%
10 Columbia Balanced Z (CBALX) 3.3% 0.84%
U.S. Government Bond
Over the long term, government-bond funds have led their category by sticking with Treasuries. But this year many were rewarded for reaching for yield (and taking on risk) with mortgage securities.
Rank Fund name (Ticker) Return Exp. Ratio
1 American Funds Mortgage A (MFAAX)1 2.0% 0.70%
2 American Funds U.S. Gov.Securities A (AMUSX)1 1.7% 0.65%
3 Voya GNMA Income A (LEXNX)1 1.7% 0.92%
4 Victory INCORE Fund for Income A (IPFIX)1 1.7% 0.96%
5 iShares 3-7 Year Treasury Bond ETF (IEI) 1.7% 0.15%
6 Fidelity Spartan Intermediate Treasury Bond Index (FIBAX) 1.7% 1.10%
7 Vanguard Intermediate-Term Gov. Bond Index ETF (VGIT) 1.6% 0.12%
8 Dupree Intermediate Gov. Bond Series (DPIGX) 1.6% 0.51%
9 Schwab Intermediate-Term U.S. Treasury ETF (SCHR) 1.6% 0.09%
10 Wright Current Income (WCIFX) 1.6% 1.00%
Investment-Grade Bond
This year, bond funds that invested in shorter-term debt—taking a more conservative approach to interest rate risk—stood out among all funds holding high-quality bonds.
Rank Fund name (Ticker) Return Exp. Ratio
1 Miller Intermediate Bond A (MIFAX)1 4.4% 1.15%
2 Guggenheim BulletShares 2020 Corporate Bond ETF (BSCK) 2.4% 0.24%
3 Pimco Low Duration Active ETF (LDUR) 2.2% 0.51%
4 iShares iBonds Dec 2020 Corporate ETF (IBDL) 2.2% 0.10%
5 iShares iBonds Mar 2020 Corp. ex-Financials ETF (IBCD) 2.0% 0.10%
6 FlexShares Credit-Scored U.S. Corp. Bond Index Fund (SKOR) 2.0% 0.22%
7 iShares iBonds Mar 2020 Corporate ETF (IBDC) 2.0% 0.10%
8 Guggenheim BulletShares 2019 Corporate Bond ETF (BSCJ) 1.9% 0.24%
9 iShares iBonds Mar 2023 Corp. ex-Financials ETF (IBCE) 1.9% 0.10%
10 Guggenheim Limited Duration A (GILDX)1 1.8% 0.85%
High-Yield Bond
As was the case in 2014, funds holding “junk” bonds performed poorly overall in 2015. But funds owning investments with shorter maturities were able to buck the downward trend in high-yield debt.
Rank Fund name (Ticker) Return Exp. Ratio
1 Market Vectors Emer. Mkts. High Yield Bond ETF (HYEM) 4.9% 0.40%
2 PowerShares Global Short Term High Yield Bond (PGHY) 4.0% 0.35%
3 Aquila Three Peaks High Income A (ATPAX) 3.7% 1.29%
4 iShares Emerging Markets High Yield Bond ETF (EMHY) 3.3% 0.50%
5 Guggenheim BulletShares 2016 Hi-Yld. Corp. Bond ETF (BSJG) 3.2% 0.43%
6 Buffalo High Yield (BUFHX) 3.0% 1.03%
7 Artisan High Income (ARTFX) 2.9% 1.11%
8 Wells Fargo Advantage Short-Term High-Yield Bond A (SSTHX)1 2.4% 0.83%
9 MainStay Short Duration High Yield A (MDHAX)1 2.1% 1.01%
10 TCW High Yield Bond I (TGHYX) 2.1% 0.55%
Tax-Exempt Bond
High-yield municipal bonds were one exception to the rule in low-quality debt: They actually beat their higher-quality peers. Funds investing in these riskier munis topped their category in 2015.
Rank Fund name (Ticker) Return Exp. Ratio
1 Transamerica High Yield Muni A (THAYX)1 5.3% 0.94%
2 Invesco High Yield Municipal A (ACTHX)1 5.1% 0.93%
3 Principal Opportunistic Municipal A (PMOAX)1 5.1% 1.02%
4 Pimco High Yield Municipal Bond A (PYMAX)1 5.0% 0.85%
5 Pioneer High Income Municipal A (PIMAX)1 4.7% 0.90%
6 Market Vectors CEF Muni Income ETF (XMPT) 4.6% 1.43%
7 Oppenheimer Rochester AMT-Free Muni A (OPTAX)1 4.5% 0.90%
8 MainStay High Yield Municipal Bond (MMHVX)1 4.5% 0.91%
9 Columbia High Yield Municipal Z (SRHMX) 4.4% 0.67%
10 AllianceBernstein High Income Muni Portfolio A (ABTHX)1 4.3% 0.86%

Notes: Returns as of Dec. 4, 2015. When possible, investor share classes are used. Funds with total assets less than $15 million excluded. 1. Indicates that the fund carries a sales load. 2. Closed to new investors. Source: Lipper, 877-955-4773

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