BlackRock Funds Worth a Look
Unfortunately, all of BlackRock's mutual funds levy high sales charges. For the Class A shares of its stock funds, for example, you'll pay 5.25%. And although rivals such as Pimco and Eaton Vance now offer both load and no-load versions of their funds, BlackRock has no plans to move in that direction.
However, if you invest through an adviser who waives loads, check out BlackRock Global Allocation A (symbol MDLOX). Veteran manager Dennis Stattman has driven the fund's institutional share class to an annualized return of 10.9% over its 21 years of existence, compared with an average of 8.0% annualized for all global balanced funds. Stattman says his goal is "to find the best investments all over the world, regardless of asset class, geography, economic sector or investment style." He isn't afraid to let the fund stray significantly from its benchmark, a mix of 60% stocks and 40% bonds. Today he is wary of bonds but cautiously optimistic on stocks. The fund recently held stocks, bonds and other securities denominated in more than 30 currencies, a small stake in gold, and 8% in cash.
Among the firm's stock funds, BlackRock Energy & Resources A (SSGRX) is appealing. Co-managers Dan Rice and Denis Walsh look at supply and demand for different forms of energy, use that information to determine the prospects for energy prices, then determine which sectors of the energy-stock universe offer the best opportunities. Currently, they're bullish on coal and oil-services stocks. (For more data on this fund and Global Allocation A, see our Fund Finder.)
BlackRock Strategic Income Opportunities A (BASIX) is relatively new. Managers Curtis Arledge, head of fixed income at BlackRock, and Matthew Marra can invest in any part of the bond market. The pair can even position the fund to gain from a rise in interest rates (bond prices fall when yields rise), although Arledge doesn't expect rates to rise dramatically anytime soon. From its inception in early 2008 through June 30, the fund gained 5.2% annualized, compared with an average of 4.4% among its peers. Today the fund holds a broad mix of bond classes, with sizable stakes in U.S. corporate and government debt, in addition to a modest position in emerging markets. It yields 4.1% and charges 0.40% in annual expenses.