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Thinking on One's Feet


Mutual fund managers prided themselves on sticking to their investment mandates early on in the financial crisis of 2008. This, even as the average U.S. stock fund fell nearly 30% in value. They counseled investors to do the same. Three years later, there is a new direction for funds: the flexibility to go anywhere, to pay closer attention to macroeconomic and market trends, and to even hunker down in cash.

In the third quarter, at least eight tactical asset allocation-type funds launched. At the NICSA General Membership Meeting earlier this month, fund executives said they expect more outcome-oriented, absolute-return funds to hit the market, as well.

There's the Putnam Dynamic Risk Allocation Fund, which uses leverage and a flexible mandate to actively balance portfolio risk across multiple, less-volatile asset classes. The leverage is applied to lower-volatility investments and assets whose performances do not correlate. This makes them more powerful-and equities do not dominate the fund's risk profile.

The Eaton Vance Richard Bernstein All Asset Strategy Fund takes a macro approach to investing in global markets, covering commodities, currencies and cash. As developments in markets and risk parameters change, the fund's holdings are rebalanced.

The SunAmerica Global Trends Fund combines 10 global asset classes with a rules-based asset allocation strategy that seeks to move in and out of changing markets.

TCW Group's MetWest Unconstrained Bond Fund has the ability to invest across a wide array of global fixed income sectors, looking beyond interest rate-driven sectors.

Likewise, the Loomis Sayles Senior Floating Rate and Fixed Income Fund aims at navigating changing economic and credit cycles by taking a flexible approach to investing in bank loans and other credit instruments.

Take the Scout Unconstrained Bond Fund. It invests across the entire fixed-income universe-including investment-grade, high-yield government bonds, federal agency bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

PIMCO is in the game, too, with its Absolute Return Fund, a go-anywhere fixed-income fund that will employ some hedging strategies.

As markets continue to gyrate and investors flee equities, the funds' performance will bear watching. MME