Why T. Rowe Price Still Hits the Mark

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Anyone who has been paying attention to the market in recent quarters knows that stock-oriented mutual funds have been having a rough go of things. High market volatility and investor skittishness have contributed to a mass movement out of equity funds. Unfortunately, this trend has hurt not only those investors who have stayed invested in the market but also the fund companies themselves, as they struggle to handle redemptions and pay their bills with fewer assets under management.

Coming up short
One of the latest victims of this trend is T. Rowe Price Group (NAS: TROW) , whose third-quarter earnings came in short of expectations earlier this week. While analysts were expecting earnings per share of $0.74, the official number came in at $0.71. After the announcement, shares of T. Rowe Price dropped roughly 9%. Management cited higher market volatility that lead to an overall reduction in assets under management, from $521 billion as of June 30 to $454 billion just three months later.

But even though the firm's Q3 numbers fell a bit short, revenue growth was still strong. In fact, investment advisory revenue from the shop's mutual fund lineup grew approximately 16% year over year. And regardless of whether T. Rowe Price itself is a good investment, investors shouldn't shy away from investing in many of the very solid funds that the shop offers. Even though T. Rowe's total assets under management may have taken a hit, fund investors should still feel confident owning good funds here -- like the two highlighted below.

A few good funds
One of my favorite funds in T. Rowe Price Land is T. Rowe Price New America Growth (PRWAX). Run by manager Joseph Milano for just over nine years now, the fund looks for fast-growing names, primarily from the large- and mid-cap sectors. Because the fund has just $2 billion in net assets, Milano is free to fish in smaller ponds, instead of sticking to just the biggest of blue-chip growth names. Of course, you will find large tech stalwarts like Apple (NAS: AAPL) , Google (NAS: GOOG) , and eBay (NAS: EBAY) in the portfolio, thanks to their dominant market share and compelling long-term growth prospects. But those stocks are mixed in among more mid-sized names such as Canadian restaurant chain Tim Hortons (NYS: THI) , which Milano favors because of its strong franchise and its proven ability to penetrate into the U.S. market and take market share from its competitors. Over the past decade, the fund has posted an annualized 5.1% return, beating 89% of all large-growth funds. With a low 0.83% price tag, this fund is a fine growth-oriented pick for almost any investor.

Another excellent choice is T. Rowe Price Small-Cap Value (PRSVX). It's not easy to find solid small-value funds that are still open to new investment, but this fund is one of them. The focus here is on undervalued pint-size stocks that the fund can hold for the long-term, as indicated by its low 12% annual turnover. Manager Preston Athey has headed up this fund for two decades now, in which time the fund has posted an 11.4% annualized return, compared to an 8.1% showing for the small-cap Russell 2000 Index.

With over 300 names in the portfolio, it can be hard for any one name to stand out. But industrial manufacturer Raven Industries (NAS: RAVN) , which has been in the portfolio for many years, has doubled in the past five years alone, while contributing even more to the fund over the past decade. While the fund's wide asset base of more than $6 billion bears watching, T. Rowe Price Small-Cap Value is still a fine option for the small-value corner of the market.

A helping hand
If you're an investor who is looking for the ultimate in hands-off investing, T. Rowe Price has another option for you -- lifecycle, or target date, mutual funds. These funds invest in a mix of stocks and bonds and are meant to be a one-stop shop for investors who don't want to worry about the asset allocation process. Over time, management will decrease the stock exposure in the fund, moving more heavily into bonds as you approach retirement.

Target date retirement funds are exploding in popularity, so many fund shops offer their own versions now. However, Vanguard and T. Rowe Price still have some of the best target date funds around, thanks to low costs and generally solid underlying investments (other Vanguard and T. Rowe funds) that make up the target date funds' holdings. So, if you're looking to retire in about 10 years, the T. Rowe Price Retirement 2020 Fund (TRRBX) would likely be a good choice for you, while younger investors who have just started working might want to consider the T. Rowe Price Retirement 2045 Fund (TRRKX).

Ultimately, investors shouldn't be too worried about the quarter-to-quarter earnings releases of any publicly traded fund shop whose mutual funds they may own. The focus should instead be on the fund level -- look out for changes in management or process or lagging performance. And unless the expense ratio at your fund starts to rise in response to falling assets under management, investors shouldn't make too much of a one-quarter drop in assets. It's hard enough to find good funds out there, so be sure to stick with the ones you do find, even if market volatility makes for a wild ride in the short run.

At the time this article was published

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