If you think picking stocks in a single country is tricky, imagine if your job is to find winners and avoid losers around the world.
Greg Dunn faces such challenges every day as co-manager of the $1 billion Thornburg International Growth fund, which won a 2014 U.S. Lipper Fund award for its 3- and 5-year performance in the International Multi-Cap Growth category this year from Lipper, a Thomson Reuters company. The fund racked up 23.5 percent 1-year gains through mid-March, clobbering its MSCI EAFE benchmark that lagged with 13.69 percent returns.
"We are bottom-up oriented stockpickers. By focusing on finding good businesses, you don't have to pay a ton of attention to what's going on in the macro sense," says Dunn, who first managed domestic portfolios before taking on international markets at Thornburg.
In recent years, the fund, managed by Dunn and Tim Cunningham out of Santa Fe, New Mexico, has found those values in the United Kingdom (24 percent of the fund's portfolio, as of the end of January) and Canada (9.7 percent). The managers are also not afraid of dipping into emerging markets, with 5.5 percent of the fund in Brazilian stocks and 4.2 percent in China.
Top holdings include Mastercard Inc and Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. Another favorite pick: PriceSmart Inc, the largest operator of membership warehouse clubs in Central America and the Caribbean, which is up almost 40 percent over the past year.
Whole Category Growing
Despite the wildfires seemingly lighting all over the globe these days, the international equity category's robust returns have definitely attracted investors' attention - in large part due to an extended era of fragile domestic growth.
By the end of 2013, total assets in the category had leapt to $1.4 trillion, according to Lipper. That included inflows of $105 billion in 2013, the category's best year ever for attracting new cash, and a figure that crushed every other equity category.
So far this year inflows have continued apace - despite a significant emerging-markets swoon in which Vanguard's Emerging Markets Stock Index ETF fell by 10 percent over the last year - with another $18 billion being added to the coffers.