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Morningstar fund analysts are fond of comparing a given mutual fund to its relevant peer group. The style box provides a broad-strokes way of doing that, of course, but often it's useful to have more refined points of comparison.

After all, a percentile rank in a given category will only tell you how a particular fund has performed relative to a universe of funds with similar valuation and size metrics. That's helpful, but suppose that the hot-performing large-growth fund you're considering has a fat cash stake of 25%?

In a bear market like the one we've been in for quite a while, such a cautious stance would just about automatically give the offering a leg up on the competition, but it may also cause the fund to lag its rivals when the market rallies. Of course, the fund might be a strong pick nonetheless, but in order to come to a meaningful conclusion about that, it would be useful to see how the fund fared not only relative to all large-growth funds, but also within a narrower universe of large-growth funds with similar cash stakes.