These large-cap funds are crushing the S&P 500 this year

Yes, some funds are clobbering the Standard and Poor's 500 stock index this year. We'll get to those in a second. And it won't take much longer than a second, because as a group, large-cap funds are stinking up the place, at least compared to the index.

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We looked at 718 large-company stock funds, counting only distinct share classes, not the entire alphabet soup of A,B, C and other classes. And we kicked out index funds, so we're just measuring management skill. The results: Just 191, or 27%, are beating the S&P 500's gain of 5.65% through July 30. (We've included reinvested dividends). The top five large-company stock funds

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Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
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Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
  • PIMCO StocksPLUS Long Duration fund (PSLDX), 18.1%. This fund is an anomaly, albeit a successful one. It invests in S&P 500 futures, using bonds and cash as collateral. The bonds give the fund extra yield — currently nearly 3% — as well as a kicker when bond prices rise, as they have all year. This is an institutional fund, although you may be able to get into it via a discount brokerage.
  • Advantus Strategic Dividend Income, (VSDIX), 15.2%. The strategy here: The fund can invest up to half its portfolio in real estate securities, such as real estate investment trusts, which have been red-hot this year. It can also put up to 25% in master limited partnerships, which have also been a huge hit with investors this year.
  • Invesco Exchange Fund (ACEHX), 10.9%. This fund will only accept large blocks of stocks for investment, which counts as an non-taxable event. It's closed to new investment.
  • Snow Capital Focused Value (SFOIX), 10.9%. This non-diversified fund can take big positions in stocks, although its biggest holding, BP, is less than 7% of the fund's portfolio. Minimum investment: $1 million, says Morningstar.
  • Matisse Discounted Closed-End Fund Strategy (MDCEX), 10.5%. The fund invests in closed-end funds whose market price is less than the value of their holdings.

The funds that have been most likely to beat the S&P 500 this year have had a value tilt — that is, the funds look for beaten-down stocks that Wall Street hates. The most successful category: Large-company core funds, which account for 75 of those funds that beat the index. If you run this through the Mutual Fund Translator, this means that the managers look for stocks of large companies with growing earnings that are selling for reasonable prices, relative to earnings.

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The least successful: Large-company growth funds, which had only 17 funds beating the S&P 500 this year. These funds look for stocks of companies whose earnings are set to soar. Most successful: PNC Large Cap Growth Fund (PEWIX), up 8.2%.

No good fund roundup is complete without shaming the biggest loser. That would be John Hancock Select Growth Fund (RGROX), down 6.7%. Lucky retail investors pay a maximum 5% sales charge to buy the fund.

By John Waggoner, USA Today