team may not plan to give one of their new analyst ratings to every mutual fund in the market, but that doesn't mean they're only rating the biggest mutual funds. So, how does a small mutual fund win praise under the new system? It turns out that even a rough ride through the credit crisis doesn't always prevent a small mutual fund from earning applause from Morningstar.
Christine Benz, director of personal finance at the Chicago-based mutual fund rating specialist, highlights
three mutual funds that Morningstar's analysts consider high-conviction funds though they have no more than $500 million in assets each: gold-rated Bogle Small Cap Growth
], silver-rated Tweedy, Browne Value
] and silver-rated Weitz Hickory
Benz says the Bogle fund earned gold thanks to Morningstar analyst Greg Carlson's "confidence in the fund's management, its process, and its shareholder friendliness." Analyst Kevin McDevitt likes the Tweedy fund's PM team's "conservative strategy" of investing in "firms with strong brand names that can exert pricing power."
As for Weitz Hickory, Benz acknowledges that PM Wally Weitz
's penchant for buying "truly distressed firms, provided he can get them cheaply enough" led to "predictably awful" losses during the credit crisis of 2007-2009. Yet McDevitt likes that the fund was able to recover nicely after that, and the fund still boasts a silver rating.
"The combination of a seasoned manager
employing a proven contrarian strategy with a nimble asset base is
compelling," Benz concludes.
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