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Mutual Funds

A Close Look at the 20 Biggest No-Load Stock Funds

Expanded analysis of the funds.

When it comes to mutual funds, bigger isn't necessarily better. Funds that grow too large can lose much of their flexibility. Yet investors' money continues to pour into the behemoths of the fund world, so we decided to take a hard look at the 20 biggest no-load stock funds to determine which of them are still attractive, and which have lost their sparkle.

Over a two-month period, our Fund Watch team rolled out detailed profiles of each fund listed among the "Big 20." Follow the links below to read their discussion of the funds' investing strategies and key statistics. (Also see The Best of the Behemoths, which appeared in the February issue of Kiplinger's Personal Finance.)

The funds are listed in order of size, from largest to smallest, as of January 31, 2007. Compare the funds' performance and other statistics by viewing our table of key numbers.

1. Vanguard 500
The nation's largest no-load fund tracks the S&P 500 and charges ultralow fees.

2. Vanguard Total Stock Market Index
This index fund gives you broad exposure to small-, midsize- and large-company stocks.

3. Fidelity Contrafund
Manager Will Danoff has an excellent record identifying underestimated companies. His success has attracted a lot of investor money.

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4. Dodge & Cox Stock
The fund managers' discipline has led to impressive performance.

5. Vanguard Windsor II
This low-risk, low-fee fund has had the same manager -- and has returned 12% annualized -- since its launch 20 years ago.

6. Fidelity Diversified International
Assets have swelled to $46 billion, but the manager says the fund's growth isn't the reason for its lagging performance.

7. Vanguard Wellington
Vanguard's oldest fund offers a ready-made mix of stocks and bonds.

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8. Fidelity Magellan
Manager Harry Lange aims to mend Fidelity's flagship fund. His first move: steering the fund toward growth stocks.

9. Fidelity Low-Priced Stock
Veteran manager Joel Tillinghast has produced strong returns investing in stocks priced under $35.

10. Dodge & Cox International Stock
The newest offering from this fund stalwart could help you build up your foreign holdings.

11. Vanguard Primecap
The team of managers identifies well-positioned winners and hangs on for the long term.

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12. Fidelity Equity-Income
The fund isn't a show-stopper, but manager Stephen Petersen produces solid returns by investing in undervalued, dividend-paying stocks.

13. Fidelity Growth Company
Manager Steve Wymer invests in a range of stocks but favors fast-growing tech health-care companies.

14. Fidelity Growth & Income
Manager Tim Cohen looks for opportunity in beaten-down stocks. "I like to look for bad news in the newspapers and on Wall Street for potential ideas," he says.

15. Dodge & Cox Balanced
This fund, which invests in both stocks and bonds, has delivered superior returns with relatively low volatility.

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16. Fidelity Puritan
This balanced fund invests largely in blue-chip dividend-paying stocks and a mix of bonds.

17. T. Rowe Price Equity Income
Consistent, steady performance makes Brian Roger's fund appealing for retirement savings.

18. Fidelity Balanced
An army of analysts helps the manager of this fund find the right mix of companies.

19. Vanguard Total International Stock Index
Low fees have helped this index fund outpace the average foreign fund.

20. Fidelity Blue Chip Growth
Large, growing companies are poised to step into the spotlight, but we're not sure this fund will shine.