Value stocks are lagging their growth and momentum counterparts this year, but that could bode well for a value factor resurgence in the near future. Conventional wisdom dictates that the time to embrace value stocks is when they are offering legitimate value, not when the factor has run up, potentially becoming overvalued. An active approach could serve value investors. Consider the MFS Value Fund (MEIAX). The primarily large-cap fund "seeks undervalued, high-quality companies with characteristics such as low price-to-earnings ratios or high dividend yields," according to MFS.
MFS Value has been around since early 1996 and is co-managed by Steve Gorham and Nevin Chitkara, who have 15 years and 11 years, respectively, of experience managing this portfolio. The managers scour "some of the world's most well-known large-company stocks, looking for durable businesses that can stand the test of time, generate plenty of cash, and sport a strong balance sheet. And they buy them when they are on sale," reports Barron's. (See also: 5 Low Fee MFS Mutual Funds.)
MFS Value currently holds 92 stocks, and its top 10 holdings represented just over 29% of the portfolio as of the end of July. Those top 10 holdings include JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Phillip Morris International Inc. (PM), The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (GS) and U.S. Bancorp (USB). Of MFS Value's top 10 holdings, four are members of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and five hail from the financial services sector, a group widely viewed as one of the last vestiges of value in the U.S. equity market.
Overall, financial services, the second largest sector weight in the S&P 500, represent almost one-third of MFS Value's lineup. Chitkara is bullish on the sector due to the potential for regulatory relief from the Trump Administration and increased shareholder rewards. After slashing dividends during the global financial crisis, big U.S. banks have been increasing payouts and boosting buybacks in recent years. (See also: Why Would a Value Investor Be Drawn to the Financial Services Sector?)
At a time when many active funds are struggling to beat their benchmarks, MFS is thriving. For the trailing three-, five- and 10-year periods, MFS Values earns four-star ratings from Morningstar and an overall four-star rating. That is no small feat when considering that MFS Value competes against 1,100 other funds in the Morningstar large-cap value category.
"The fund has averaged an annual return of 13.7% over the past five years, beating 89% of its peers, which turned in an average of 11.9%, according to Morningstar," reports Barron's. "MFS Value's 9.7% return this year is outpacing 90% of its peers. The fund lags behind the S&P 500 when the market roars higher or when debt-laden companies are in favor, but its emphasis on high-quality operations helps it weather volatile periods especially well." (See also: 8 Undervalued Stocks to Weather a Market Downturn.)