While mutual funds put in a strong performance this year -- 57% of 7,500 analyzed funds had positive returns in 2011 through October 28 -- only 689 of those funds with gains for the year earned a five-star domestic equity ranking from S&P Capital IQ. The rankings take into consideration many attributes, including the valuation and risk of a fund’s underlying holdings as well as cost factors.

In a report this week, S&P Capital IQ mutual fund analyst Todd Rosenbluth highlighted three five-star funds: FBR Gas Utility Index Fund (GASFX), Wells Fargo Advantage Growth Fund (SGROX) and Artisan Small Cap Fund (ARTSX).

FBR Gas Utility Index Fund had a 22.3% gain in 2011 through October 28, the best performance of equity five-star funds that are open to retail investors and have more than $100 million in assets, according to the report. The sector-focused fund contains utility and energy stocks such as Oneok (OKE) and Spectra Energy (SE). GASFX also has a below-average net expense ratio, according to the report.

Large-cap information technology, consumer discretionary, health care and energy stocks are all included in Wells Fargo Advantage Growth Fund’s holdings. The fund was up 13.8% for the year through October 28. The turnover rate is solidly below peers in the multi-cap growth group, according to S&P Capital IQ. Recent top-10 holdings of the fund have included Apple (AAPL), Alexion Pharmaceuticals (ALXN) and Carmax (KMX).

Even though large-cap U.S. stocks have on the whole outperformed small-caps in 2011 to date, some small-cap funds have nevertheless seen double-digit returns, according to the report. Of small-cap mutual funds with five-star rankings, the top performer so far this year is Artisan Small Cap Fund (ARTSX), up 11.9% through October 28, according to S&P Capital IQ. Of late, the fund has been focused on information technology, industrial and health care stocks including Informatica (INFA) and Thomas & Betts (TNB). Like Wells Fargo Advantage, Artisan has a low turnover rate, indicating the fund’s managers are taking a longer-term approach to investing, according to S&P Capital IQ.




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