Review and Outlook

as of 03/31/24

The bull market that started at the end of October of 2023 kept running throughout the first quarter of 2024. Even the renewed threat of "higher for longer" interest rates did not put a check on equity performance. Investors entered the new year optimistic that a soft landing was in store for the economy, in which a recession would be avoided, inflation would continue to dissipate, and the Fed would start cutting interest rates in March. The economy has not only avoided recession but has been stronger than market forecasts. Meanwhile, inflation has again turned sticky, and Fed rate cuts have been delayed to at least June.

Economic data was slightly mixed during the quarter. Strong growth in the U.S. labor supply, driven by increased labor force participation and a surge in immigration, supported job gains without higher inflation. The U.S. unemployment rate, though still low, rose slightly to 3.8%. The S&P Global US Services PMI, an index of the prevailing direction of economic trends in the U.S. service sector, pulled back modestly. Existing home sales jumped 9.5% in February 2024, the highest percentage increase in a year and above consensus expectations. At a 3.2% annualized rate, U.S. inflation, although it has yet to decline to the Fed’s stated 2% preferred level, is significantly less than the June 2022 peak of more than 9%. Looking ahead, a more normalized supply chain and moderating wage growth bode well for a continued slow decline in inflation.

Baron Growth Fund appreciated in the quarter. Holdings within Financials, Consumer Discretionary, and Real Estate contributed the most. Communication Services and Health Care investments detracted. With the top three contributors within the sector, Financials had a strong quarter. Global hotelier Choice Hotels International, Inc. led positive performance within Consumer Discretionary. The stock rose after Choice decided to abandon its proposed acquisition of Wyndham Hotels. Gains within Real Estate were driven by CoStar Group, Inc. Shares of this provider of marketing and analytics to the real estate industry increased on strong quarterly and year-end results, including 2023 revenue of $2.46 billion, a 13% year-over-year increase, and above-consensus estimates. Top detractor Iridium Communications Inc. drove declines within Communication Services. Bio-Techne Corporation led weak performance within Health Care. Shares of this life sciences tools and services provider declined on weak financial results, driven by a slowdown in China and ongoing biotech funding constraints.

While we are encouraged by recent signs of recovery in the markets and the U.S. economy, as long-term investors who have lived through numerous market cycles, we have learned not to try to predict the unpredictable. Instead, we focus on identifying and researching well-managed unique businesses with durable competitive advantages and compelling growth prospects and investing in them at attractive prices. We think the combination of unchanged long-term growth outlooks and attractive valuations should result in strong returns over time.

Top Contributors/Detractors to Performance

as of 03/31/24

Contributors

  • The contributors to performance for period ending March 31, 2024 is not yet available

Detractors

  • The detractors to performance for period ending March 31, 2024 is not yet available

Investors should consider the investment objectives, risks, and charges and expenses of the investment carefully before investing. The prospectus and summary prospectuses contain this and other information about the Funds. You may obtain them from the Funds’ distributor, Baron Capital, Inc., by calling 1-800-99BARON or visiting www.BaronFunds.com. Please read them carefully before investing.

The performance data quoted represents past performance. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The investment return and principal value of an investment will fluctuate; an investor's shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost. The Fund’s transfer agency expenses may be reduced by expense offsets from an unaffiliated transfer agent, without which performance would have been lower. Current performance may be lower or higher than the performance data quoted.

Risks:All investments are subject to risk and may lose value.

The discussion of market trends is not intended as advice to any person regarding the advisability of investing in any particular security. The views expressed on this page reflect those of the respective writer. Some of our comments are based on management expectations and are considered “forward-looking statements.” Actual future results, however, may prove to be different from our expectations. Our views are a reflection of our best judgment at the time and are subject to change at any time based on market and other conditions and Baron has no obligation to update them

Portfolio holdings are subject to change. Current and future portfolio holdings are subject to risk.

The index performance is not fund performance; one cannot invest directly into an index.