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Despite concerns that value and growth strategies have become outdated, it turns out the top-performing value mutual funds bested the S&P 500. Those results, however, come at a price.

While average expense ratios were over 100 basis points, these funds had an average return of 12.52% over the last three years, edging out the S&P 500, which returned 11.28% over the same period. The top fund on this list advanced 19.82%.

“The interesting thing about examining returns of value funds, or any style for that matter, is the wide dispersion in returns that you can find,” says Dana D’Auria, managing director at Symmetry Partners. “Theoretically, if managers are seeking exposure to the same style, you might expect that they will perform relatively similarly in any given year. But we find that that is not necessarily the case because broad themes like value leave a lot of room for interpretation.”

Although some funds on this list might not seem like they’re value at first blush, like Fidelity Advisor Financial Services, for example, they meet the requirement based on its portfolio composition. To be sure, these funds were selected based on their individual value-growth scores, which reflect “the price investors are willing to pay for a share of some combination of the stock’s prospective earnings, book value, revenue, cash flow and dividends,” according to Morningstar.

“Managers may weight the stocks in their fund by their personal conviction in the stock, which could lead to a wildly different allocation than a fund that weights value stocks by their market cap, which in turn will differ from those that weight based on the strength of the value signal in that stock,” D’Auria says. “Another point of differentiation is in the weighting scheme. You end up with different sets of stocks being selected and held for different time frames and at different weights.”

As noted, value funds typically come at a higher price. The average expense ratio in this list is 1.04%. Several funds listed here also include loads, which is noted.

Scroll through to see the 20 best-performing value strategy mutual funds for the past three years. There is also data on each fund’s one-year returns, expense ratios and total assets. Funds with less than $100 million in assets, institutional funds and investment minimums over $100,000 were excluded. All data from Morningstar Direct.


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