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Is Vanguard Strategic Equity Fund (VSEQX) a Strong Mutual Fund Pick Right Now?

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Having trouble finding a Mid Cap Blend fund? Vanguard Strategic Equity Fund (VSEQX - Free Report) is a potential starting point. VSEQX bears a Zacks Mutual Fund Rank of 1 (Strong Buy), which is based on nine forecasting factors like size, cost, and past performance.

Objective

The world of Mid Cap Blend mutual funds is an area filled with options, such as VSEQX. Mid Cap Blend funds expose investors to value picks, income opportunities, and exciting growth potential, but also gives some stability; these funds usually seek a stock portfolio of various size and style, which allows for diversification when the focus is on companies with market capitalization in the range of $2 billion to $10 billion.

History of Fund/Manager

Vanguard Group is based in Malvern, PA, and is the manager of VSEQX. Vanguard Strategic Equity Fund made its debut in August of 1995, and since then, VSEQX has accumulated about $6.98 billion in assets, per the most up-to-date date available. James P. Stetler is the fund's current manager and has held that role since January of 2012.

Performance

Investors naturally seek funds with strong performance. This fund in particular has delivered a 5-year annualized total return of 8.52%, and is in the top third among its category peers. But if you are looking for a shorter time frame, it is also worth looking at its 3-year annualized total return of 12.58%, which places it in the top third during this time-frame.

When looking at a fund's performance, it is also important to note the standard deviation of the returns. The lower the standard deviation, the less volatility the fund experiences. Compared to the category average of 13.07%, the standard deviation of VSEQX over the past three years is 15.13%. Looking at the past 5 years, the fund's standard deviation is 14.09% compared to the category average of 12.74%. This makes the fund more volatile than its peers over the past half-decade.

Risk Factors

It's always important to be aware of the downsides to any future investment, so one should not discount the risks that come with this segment. VSEQX lost 56.18% in the most recent bear market and underperformed its peer group by 5.49%. This makes the fund a possibly worse choice than its peers during a sliding market environment.

Investors should not forget about beta, an important way to measure a mutual fund's risk compared to the market as a whole. VSEQX has a 5-year beta of 1.13, which means it is likely to be more volatile than the market average. Because alpha represents a portfolio's performance on a risk-adjusted basis relative to a benchmark, which is the S&P 500 in this case, one should pay attention to this metric as well. Over the past 5 years, the fund has a negative alpha of -3.15. This means that managers in this portfolio find it difficult to pick securities that generate better-than-benchmark returns.

Holdings

Investigating the equity holdings of a mutual fund is also a valuable exercise. This can show us how the manager is applying their stated methodology, as well as if there are any inherent biases in their approach. For this particular fund, the focus is principally on equities that are traded in the United States.

As of the last filing date, the mutual fund has 97.17% of its assets in stocks, which have an average market capitalization of $9.46 billion. The fund has the heaviest exposure to the following market sectors:

  1. Finance
  2. Technology
  3. Other
This fund's turnover is about 82%, so the fund managers are making more trades per year than the comparable average.

Expenses

As competition heats up in the mutual fund market, costs become increasingly important. Compared to its otherwise identical counterpart, a low-cost product will be an outperformer, all other things being equal. Thus, taking a closer look at cost-related metrics is vital for investors. In terms of fees, VSEQX is a no load fund. It has an expense ratio of 0.17% compared to the category average of 1.05%. So, VSEQX is actually cheaper than its peers from a cost perspective.

While the minimum initial investment for the product is $3,000, investors should also note that each subsequent investment needs to be at least $1.

Bottom Line

Overall, Vanguard Strategic Equity Fund ( VSEQX ) has a high Zacks Mutual Fund rank, strong performance, average downside risk, and lower fees compared to its peers.

Don't stop here for your research on Mid Cap Blend funds. We also have plenty more on our site in order to help you find the best possible fund for your portfolio. Make sure to check out www.zacks.com/funds/mutual-funds for more information about the world of funds, and feel free to compare VSEQX to its peers as well for additional information. If you want to check out our stock reports as well, make sure to go to Zacks.com to see all of the great tools we have to offer, including our time-tested Zacks Rank.


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