(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
by John Waggoner, USA TODAY
Academic research shows that investing in low-priced, beaten-down stocks gives superior returns than buying stocks in high-octane, high-growth companies.
But funds that look for hot growth have beaten bargain-hunting ones so far this year. Academic research didn't count on one thing: Apple.
The average large-company growth fund gained 17.1% so far this year, vs. 16.5% for funds that track the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index. Large-cap value funds gained 14.3%, according to Lipper, which tracks the funds.
Growth stocks and value stocks tend to have long periods of over- and under-performance. Normally, growth stocks fare best when rapid corporate earnings growth is rare: Investors will pay a premium for stock of a fast-growing company.
A glance at the top five large-company growth funds, however, shows that much of their success stems from Apple, whose shares have rocketed 66% this year.
* Touchstone Sands Capital Growth (CISGX) is up 25.4% for the year, and 9.2% of its assets are in Apple, according to Morningstar.
* Powershares QQQ Trust (QQQ), which tracks the Nasdaq 100, is up 24.7% for the year and has 19.7% of its assets in Apple.
* Touchstone Sands Capital Select Growth (PTSGX): up 24.6%, with 9.1% in Apple.
* Janus Forty (JARTX): Up 24.5%, with 12% in Apple.
* USAA Nasdaq 100 Index (USNQX): Up 24.3%, with 17.3% in Apple.
Growth funds, in general, have big love for Apple. Large-company growth funds own 172 million Apple shares, according to Morningstar: That's about 18% of Apple's outstanding shares.
The gap between large-company growth and value narrowed in the third quarter: Large-cap growth gained 6.8%, vs. 6.7% for large-cap value funds.
Why have value funds lagged? Value funds often love stocks with high dividend yields and low prices, relative to earnings. Currently, bank stocks fit that bill nicely.
The top-performing large-company value fund so far this year, Dodge & Cox Value (DODGX), gained a respectable 19.6%. Its top two holdings: Wells Fargo and CapitalOne.