Your World of Small Business:Small May Be Big

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For a long time, big was king as big stocks were the favorites of Wall Street. But that's not the case any longer. And although small is not necessarily beautiful, some of the categories of small cap mutual funds have a lot prettier returns than what has been a very ugly market.

If you don't want to put your money in your mattress and do think that small stocks may hold a key — but don't have the time or tenacity to choose small stocks on your own — you may be looking at small stock funds.  I've gone through the database at and have two that may be worth a second look.

In the small value category, check out the Ariel Fund (ARGFX). For one thing, it's returns are a lot better than the market — yes, down 10 percent so far this year, beating the averages, but for the past three years, it's made money, up 6 percent annually on average.

Add a long-time manager, below-average expenses and a strong long-term record and Ariel ranks high on the small cap list. One word of warning — it can be hit hard when its style is out of season — it's defensive stance, though, in times such as these, helps beat the bears.

Maybe you're looking for a bit more juice, though — a small fund that is a blend of both value and growth stocks. You could check out the AXA Rosenberg Small Cap Fund (BRSCX). Yes, it's down so far this year — what isn't? but less than half that of the major market averages.

AXA uses a computer model to find cheap stocks — and holds lots of them — some 600. This means that a big-time blow-up won't likely hit hard. Its record is strong long-term: up 6 percent each year for the last three — remember that the last two, the markets have been down. And it doesn't have too many periods of under-performance.

Those are a couple of choices, if you want to forgo the mattress or mortgage option. There are small stock funds out there that may help you diversify — and as we've learned — diversification got thrown out in the bubble, but now more than ever, it's the only way to stay safe in a tough market.