The 5 Best American Funds

American Funds manages more than $1 trillion in total assets for individual and institutional investors. It is part of the Capital Group, which is headquartered in Los Angeles and is one of the largest investment management groups worldwide. American offers a wide variety of mutual funds, including equity funds, bond funds, money market funds and target-date funds. American mutual funds are typically actively managed funds, and the company has an established track record of its best funds substantially outperforming the overall market average. Ten American mutual funds made the 2013 Morningstar "Fantastic 51" list of best actively managed funds.

The following are the top five performers among American's mutual funds, based on five-year average annualized returns as of the end of 2015. Minimum investment requirements for American funds are generally below average, with many set at $250.

1) The New Economy Fund

The New Economy Fund has produced a five-year average annualized return for investors, as of the end of December 2015, of 14.34%. The fund was launched in 1983, has $15 billion in total assets under management (AUM) and is aimed toward long-term capital growth. The fund manager focuses on firms identified as having high-growth potential and that are associated with industry or economic innovation. The fund is concentrated in large-cap stocks but also holds significant assets in mid- and small-cap stocks. Nearly half of the portfolio's assets may be invested in foreign equities. The top three portfolio components are Netflix, Alexion Pharmaceuticals and Hologic. The fund's expense ratio is 0.79%, which is low for the category of large-growth funds. There is a dividend yield of 0.45%.

2) AMCAP Fund

The AMCAP Fund is one of American's most popular funds, returning 11.6% annually since its 1967 inception. The five-year average annualized return is even better at 14.27%. This is another fund in the large-cap growth category, with the primary investment goal of capital appreciation. The fund's $45 billion in assets are invested in stocks the fund manager identifies as being attractively priced and offering above-average growth potential. Technology and health care are primary investment sectors, with holdings such as Amgen, Oracle Corporation and UnitedHealth Group Corporation. Netflix and Amazon.com are also among the fund's top holdings. The fund's expense ratio is 0.68%. There is no dividend yield.

3) The Growth Fund of America

Launched in 1973, the Growth Fund of America has roughly $141 billion in assets, and has shown consistently good performance through a number of fund management changes. The fund's five-year annualized return is 13.78%. The lead portfolio manager divides the portfolio into market segments managed by team members. The fund utilizes fundamental analysis to identify equities that suit its focus on growth investing. Up to 25% of the fund may be invested in foreign equities. Top holdings are Amazon, Gilead Sciences, Home Depot and Alphabet. The expense ratio is 0.65%, and there is a dividend yield of 0.34%.

4) Washington Mutual Investors Fund

The Washington Mutual Investors Fund, launched in 1952, has provided investors a five-year average return of 13.74%. This large blend fund with $75 billion in assets aims to provide both income and long-term capital growth. The fund's assets are 95% invested in common stocks selected based primarily on strong track records of earnings and dividends. The fund manager does not invest in companies primarily engaged in either the alcohol or tobacco industries. The portfolio devotes nearly 18% of its assets to the industrials sector, nearly twice the category average. The top five holdings include Microsoft, Wells Fargo, Boeing and Coca-Cola. The expense ratio for the fund is 0.58%, which is notably low for the category. There is a dividend yield of 1.99%.

5) Fundamental Investors Fund

The Fundamental Investors Fund was launched in 1978. The fund's five-year average annualized return is 13.18%. The fund invests its $71 billion in total assets seeking long-term capital appreciation, with a secondary investment goal of providing income. The fund's portfolio is typically composed of stocks that are attractive from both a value investing and a growth investing perspective. Since the 2008 financial crisis, the fund has reduced its exposure to foreign equities from approximately 30% to around 10%. The market sectors of technology, financial services and consumer cyclicals combine to account for nearly half of the portfolio. The top five portfolio holdings are Microsoft, Amazon, Comcast Corporation, Wells Fargo and Philip Morris. The expense ratio for the Fundamental Investors Fund is 0.61%, and the fund's dividend yield is 1.74%.