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No Stars, Stellar Work

Strong performance drew so much cash to the Dodge & Cox Stock Fund (DODGX), one of our 2003 award winners, that it closed to new investors in January. Would-be investors aren't completely shut out: They can still buy shares in the $13.2 billion Dodge & Cox Balanced Fund (DODBX).

More than 60% of the balanced fund is invested in out-of-favor blue chips with good long-term earnings prospects. And those stocks are chosen by the same value-minded stockpicking team that runs the closed fund. Both portfolios hold virtually the same stocks, including AT&T (T), Dow Chemical (DOW) and News Corp. (NWS), although the weightings are slightly different.

The firm's bond managers oversee the rest of the portfolio. Their goal is to preserve capital by focusing on high-quality bonds with maturities of at least three years.

Since committees choose both stocks and bonds, the San Francisco firm has no "stars." But the managers do have longevity. The average tenure is 23 years, more than four times that of the typical fund manager. Other reasons to like the fund: Turnover is low, and expenses are rock-bottom. There is no advertising to speak of. Word-of-mouth is the only marketing.

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