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rob carrick

You're supposed to be greedy when other investors are fearful – that's what Warren Buffett says, anyway.

But what if you're just as fearful as everyone else, or worse? The answer may be an ETF or mutual fund that does a good job of playing defence when the stock markets are falling. To find some funds like this, I used the fund filter on to line up the best-performing Canadian equity funds in 2015. This fact alone is far from enough to recommend a fund. But it does suggest a starting point for your research if you're worried about how the stock market has extended the losses of 2015 into the new year. Here are some top performers of 2015 to consider:

- BMO Low Volatility Canadian Equity ETF (ZLB-T): Holds 40 of the least volatile names among the 100 most liquid stocks in Canada. The one-year total return of 2.7 per cent looks quite good in comparison to the 8.3 per cent decline for the S&P/TSX composite total return index. Holdings include a mix of familiar blue chips like BCE and Emera along with other stocks like Dollarama and Progressive Waste Solutions.

- Mawer Canadian Equity Series A: This mutual fund eked out a 0.97-per-cent gain last year, and that helped extend a long record of outperformance when measured against its peers and the S&P/TSX composite index. In the past year, for example, the average Canadian equity fund lost 5.9 per cent. This fund's 1.2-per-cent management expense ratio looks high in comparison to ETFs, but it's cheap for mutual funds.

- PowerShares S&P/TSX Composite Low Volatility Index ETF (TLV-T): Tracks an index of less volatile stocks and delivered a return of 0.1 per cent last year. Note the heavy 58-per-cent weighting to financial stocks.

- Fidelity True North Class B: Lost 1.9 per cent, which puts it well ahead of the index and the average for the Canadian equity category. The 2.29 per cent MER is comparatively expensive, yet long-term returns have been highly competitive against peers and the index. Noteworthy: Valeant Pharmaceutical was listed as the fifth-largest holding as of Sept. 30.

Do not consider these funds for further research simply because they outperformed last year. The more sound rationale is that last year's results indicate an investing approach that can cope with adversity. We have a bull market in that these days.