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Attention bargain hunters: If value shopping is in your blood here's a news flash---not all value fund portfolio managers think alike. So, just like the buyers for K-Mart and Target don't both carry the same brand names or buy all the same merchandise, neither will value fund portfolio managers.

Competition is really what makes any industry tick. From merchandising to mutual funds who ever is in charge of the buying can really impact the sales--or performance---results. Take value funds for instance. There was a time when the notion behind value investing was pretty cut and dried one: Portfolio managers typically used a universe of out-of-favor stocks selling at discounted prices to select their stocks picks from. Today however, things aren't that black and white.

T. Rowe Price, (800-638-5660), for instance. offers investors a choice of two different value funds. One invests in large cap stocks, it's called the T. Rowe Price Value Fund. The other, the T. Rowe Price Small-Cap Value Fund. Its portfolio picks come from the small stock universe. Just as the types of companies selected are different, so are the number of stocks held in each portfolio, and, their performances.

In T. Rowe Price's large-cap value portfolio there are around 90 stocks. Total return for that fund, through the end of August, was up well over 12 percent. The smaller-cap value portfolio, however, didn't' fair as well. Its portfolio, with approximately 140 stocks in it, was up only one-half of one percent. So, lesson No. 1 for the value-minded investor to remember is, no matter what investment strategy is employed, size matters. Lesson No.2, when various sized companies are out-of-favor in the market, buying value can be a mute point.

Anthony Maramarco, portfolio manager of the Babson Value Fund, (800-422-2766), thinks about value in relative terms when selecting his stock picks. His screens use both growth and value measures.

There are 40 stocks in this fund's portfolio. Each is evenly weighted. Consequently, if one fund holding has a particularly good---or bad---run, the entire portfolio isn't dramatically impacted by it. So far this year the Babson Value Fund is up nearly 6 percent.

Lesson No. 3: Value isn't limited to only value stocks---- it can be found in growth companies too.

Bill Fries is the portfolio manager of the Thornburg Value Fund (800-847-0200). It's up well over 15 percent so far this year and he sees value almost everywhere.

With a portfolio made up of about 44 different stocks, Fries invests in the fund's assets in three different areas: Basic value companies, they make up about 60 percent of the fund's portfolio; consistent growers, blue chip companies will long-term track records ---like Pepsico---make up about 20 percent of the fund; and emerging franchises, i.e., rapidly growing small companies, and they represent another 20 percent of the fund's portfolio.

The tie that binds the three different types of companies together is that Fries likes to buy stocks from each category when they are out-of-favor. He will, however, pay-up for companies if he feels they add diversity to the fund.

"We want to buy good companies and have a diversified portfolio. And we think that diversification should include some high quality companies and some rapidly growing companies, " he says.

That brings us to Lesson No. 4; sometimes thinking outside the box pays off.

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