Finding top-notch mutual funds is hard enough. Identifying first-rate funds that invest only in what their managers believe are socially responsible companies is virtually impossible.
Put Appleseed Fund (symbol APPLX) on the short list of superb socially conscious funds. Its performance has been stunning. Over the three years through February 19, the fund returned an annualized 7% — an average of 15 percentage points per year better than Standard & Poor’s 1500 Citigroup Value stock index, which tracks the stocks of undervalued companies of all sizes. The fund coasted through the worst bear market since the Great Depression with relatively minor damage. In 2008, it lost just 18%, and last year it soared 60%. The S&P 1500 Value index, by contrast, lost 39% in 2008 and gained 22% last year.