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Five US funds that trounced peers amid the rally

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With US equities marking 4 July celebrations by reaching fresh highs this week, Investment Week looks at the best performers of the past three years.

On the macroeconomic front, 2014 has been a mixed bag for the US so far, with first quarter GDP shrinking at an annual rate of 2.9% amid a severe bout of bad weather.

But non-farm payroll data released on Thursday showed employers added nearly 288,000 jobs in June, and the unemployment rate fell to 6.1% – the lowest since 2008.

Equity markets, meanwhile, have continued to progress. Smaller companies have had a rougher ride this year, but the large cap indices have continued to roar ahead: the S&P 500 is up 7.4% year to date.

Those markets may be notoriously hard to beat for the average active manager, but there is still good outperformance to be found in the IMA North American sector. Here we look at the best five funds over the year to 20 June.

1) Legg Mason Capital Management Opportunities 

Working with veteran manager Bill Miller, Samantha McLemore’s management of the £129m fund is very much in keeping with Miller’s own risk-on approach. Returns of 75.1% in the three years to 20 June 2014 compare to a sector average of 46.4% and a 54% return for the S&P 500. She has tipped the housing market and financial sector as key drivers in the US economy.

2) Threadneedle US Equity Income

Launched in 2011, this income fund has been impressive on the capital growth front, too – managed by Diane Sobin (now head of US equities) and Nadia Grant, the portfolio has just passed its three-year anniversary and has posted a 61.7% return in the three years to 20 June 2014.

Top holdings include Apple, Chevron Corporation and pharmaceutical company AbbVie Inc.

3) Legg Mason CB US Aggressive Growth 

Co-managers Evan Bauman and Richie Freeman’s long-term approach mean a number of holdings in this £1.5bn fund have been there for a decade or more. But the pair did take advantage of the recent biotech sell-off to deploy some of their cash pile earlier this year. These two approaches appear to have served the fund well: it returned 61.2% in the three years to 20 June 2014.

4) New Capital US Growth 

Managed by Mazama Capital on behalf of EFG Asset Management, this £62m fund has Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft among its top holdings, but has been cutting back on the sector since the start of the year. The fund, which uses Mazama’s proprietary Price Performance Model to track the best growth stocks in the US, has returned 60.5% in the three years to 20 June.

5) Old Mutual North American Equity 

Thematics rather than cyclical plays determine the strategy of managers Amadeo Alentorn, Ian Heslop and Mike Servent, and the fund has become increasingly popular with wealth managers in recent years. With large holdings in healthcare, IT and financials, the £364m portfolio has returned 59.9% over the three years to 20 June .

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