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Five Ways to Ride the Revival of Big Companies

These superior funds specialize in stocks of large firms.

Her native Poland had been free from the yoke of communism for only five years when Ewa Piaskowy immigrated to the U.S. in 1994. But it didn't take her long to catch on to her adopted land's capitalistic ways.

Piaskowy, 30, is now an accountant who keeps the books in the Steamboat Springs, Colo., office of her dentist husband, Jeff, 33. She decided recently that shares of large, fast-growing companies represent an attractive area of the stock market. "Growth stocks are very inexpensive," she says. So the couple have invested some of their retirement money in iShares Russell 1000 Growth Index (IWF), an exchange-traded fund that tracks the shares of fast-growing big companies.

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For investors who are satisfied with matching an index, ETFs, which trade just like stocks, are ideal. Because expenses are low -- 0.2% a year in the case of Russell 1000 Growth -- the fund should closely track the underlying index. This ETF invests in the faster-growing stocks in the Russell 1000, which itself tracks the performance of the 1,000 biggest U.S. companies (by market value). Don't get hung up over the fund's record, an annualized loss of 3% over the past five years to January 10. Better times are coming.

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Not content with index-fund returns? Neither is Tom Marsico, 50, manager of Marsico Growth (MGRIX; 888-860-8686). Over the past five years, the fund returned an annualized 1%, a good number given Marsico's focus. Marsico, who delivered excellent returns at Janus before leaving to set up his own shop in 1997, combines gifted stock-picking skills with an ability to identify profitable investment themes.

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Bob Smith's performance matched Marsico's over the past five years. But Smith, manager of T. Rowe Price Growth Stock (PRGFX; 800-638-5660), takes a different tack. Smith, 44, picks stocks one at a time. He has loaded his fund with such solid citizens as General Electric, Kohl's and Microsoft. "These companies continue to show solid earnings and revenue growth, but their stocks haven't moved," he says. "That has to change."

For a low-risk way to invest in big growth stocks, look to Ron Canakaris. His fund, ABN AMRO Montag Caldwell Growth N (MCGFX; 800-992-8151), lost an annualized 3% over the past five years. Why? The slower-growing but steadier giants he favors have been market wallflowers. When the likes of Eli Lilly, Johnson Johnson and 3M catch investors' fancy, performance will improve.

If you want something a little friskier, Baron Fifth Avenue Growth (BFTHX; 800-992-2766) may be your best bet. Manager Mitch Rubin owns some behemoths and many stocks that are on the smaller end of the large-company spectrum, such as American Tower, Iron Mountain and XTO Energy. Rubin seeks companies "that can double their earnings in five years and, perhaps, double them again." Launched in April 2004, Fifth Avenue returned 8% in 2005.

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