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Mutual Funds

Four Great Growth Funds

Investors who want to skip the hassle of buying individual growth stocks have plenty of fine funds to choose from. Will Danoff, who manages Fidelity Contrafund (symbol FCNTX), a member of the Kiplinger 25, seeks growing industry leaders and doesn't agonize over the price he pays for a stellar name. The fund's 3.0% annualized return over the past ten years through July 31 beats 95% of large-company growth funds. But the fund's immensity -- it has $50 billion in assets -- means it is heavily biased toward large- and mega-capitalization stocks.

For a more targeted approach to the mid-cap slice of the market -- where companies tend to be leaner and better able to sustain high growth rates -- T. Rowe Price Mid-Cap Growth (RPMGX), also a member of the Kiplinger 25, is a fine option. Manager Brian Berghuis likes companies that, aided by such things as patents or potent brand names, build strong defenses against their competitors, and he tends to pay more attention to balance sheets and share price than other growth-fund managers do. The fund's 5.2% annualized return over the past ten years beats 82% of mid-cap growth funds.

Similarly, at Buffalo Mid Cap (BUFMX), managers Kent Gasaway and Bob Male focus on companies exhibiting solid growth, but they also think about a firm's debt load and stock valuation. The team follows big-picture themes, such as trends in demographics and technological innovation, to unearth superb picks. Buffalo Mid Cap gained an annualized 4.2% since its 2001 inception, beating its peers by an average of 3.5 percentage points per year.

The lowest-cost option for investing in this area is an exchange-traded fund, Vanguard Mid-Cap Growth (VOT), which charges 0.15% annually in expenses. The fund tracks the MSCI US Mid Cap Growth index, which was flat over the past ten years.