"Go-anywhere," or "free-range" fund managers have come into the limelight once again. The funds can be seen wherever lists of top-performing mutual funds are on display, according to Bloomberg columnist Chet Currier.

In the past, they have faced pressures from two difficult rivals--indexers and the strict "style purity" investing crowd. Examples of the free-range class include giants like the $64 billion Fidelity Contrafund managed by Will Danoff. The fund returned 9.6 % annually over the past five years through the middle of last week.

A few years ago, the entire free-range breed had fallen into an irreversible decline. People had made the case that lower-cost index funds were habitually superior to all types of actively managed funds. Many investors had grown impatient with the irregular doings of go-anywhere fund managers.

Despite all this, free-range funds survived because they produce results that are too good to miss. Free-range managers have a great advantage because they can pick their spots in either growth or value stocks, meaning they always have access to a wider set of opportunities than does anyone who is confined to one sector or the other.

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