4 Strong Growth Funds with Downside Protection

08/29/2019 5:00 am EST

Focus: FUNDS

Todd Rosenbluth

Senior Director of ETF & Mutual Fund Research, CFRA Research

Despite high volatility in August, the S&P 500 Growth Index fell in price by only 0.2%, outperforming the S&P 500 Value Index's 1.5% drop, as of August 9, and further extending its year-to-date relative performance by 650 basis points, notes Todd Rosenbluth, analyst with CFRA Research's The Outlook.

Yet, given the S&P 500 Growth Index historically incurred higher volatility, some investors may prefer to employ active management and choose a strategy that has strong records and demonstrated better control of risk in the past.

The average large-cap growth mutual fund in CFRA's database had a three-year standard deviation of 13.4 as of July 2019, higher than the S&P 500 Growth index's 12.3 and the S&P 500's 12.1.

However, CFRA identified four funds that not only sport below average volatility but have strong track records and other favorable holdings and cost attributes.

Calvert Equity (CSIEX) is one such fund, with a three-year standard deviation of 10.3, well below peers and the growth index. The fund was also in the top quartile of the large-cap growth peer group on a one- and three-year total return basis as of August 9.

This month, the fund's 0.2% gain was better than the 1.7% loss for the peer group and index. In addition to CSIEX's strong record, the fund's five-star rating stems from its below-average 18% turnover rate and holdings that incur modest risk considerations, according to our research.

Many of the fund's positions have above average S&P Global Market Intelligence Quality Rankings due to their ability to deliver consistently strong earnings and dividend records.

Top holdings that have favorable traits include Danaher (DHR), Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO) and Visa (V). The fund is sub-advised by Joseph Hudepohl, a principal at Atlanta Capital Management.

Hudepohl also is the manager for Eaton Vance Atlanta Capital Focused Growth (EAALX), which incurs below-average volatility as well.

The fund's 10.6 three-year standard deviation, top-quartile one- and three-year total return and above average Quality Rankings for its holdings are key drivers.

There are just 27 positions, compared to 82 at CSIEX, and the fund's top-10 holdings make up 55% of the portfolio (43%). For example, Visa's position size was nearly double, at 8% of recent assets.

A third highly rated large-cap growth fund that incurs modest risk is AB Large Cap Growth (APGAX), which outperformed its large-cap growth peers on a one-, three- and five-year total return basis, including a more modest 1.0% loss in August. The fund generated an 11.9 three-year standard deviation.

The fund's holdings earn positive risk considerations from CFRA, for not only above-average Quality Rankings, but also strong investment-grade Credit Ratings from S&P Global. Microsoft (MSFT), Monster Beverage (MNST) and UnitedHealth Group (UNH) are some of the fund's top positions.

A fourth option is Bridge Builder Large Cap Growth (BBGLX). The fund gets positive scores for the above average SPGMI Quality Rankings and S&P Global credit ratings of its underlying holdings, including Amazon (AMZN), Alphabet (GOOGL), Apple (AAPL), Yum Brands (YUM) and Lowe’s (LOW).

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