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Bonds show strength; equity mutual funds don’t

SHARE Bonds show strength; equity mutual funds don’t

Slow and steady bond funds outpaced equity mutual funds during the latest week.

As stocks took a dip, so did equity mutual funds, allowing bond funds to capture the top five positions in Lipper Analytical Services Inc.'s weekly measure of mutual fund performance.

With the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipping 0.6 percent during the week ended Thursday and the Standard & Poor's 500-Stock Index nudging down 0.02 percent, bond funds made their case as a portfolio stabilizer during equity downturns.

Target Maturity funds gained 1.6 percent during the week, followed by General U.S. Treasury funds, which gained 1.1 percent. Investment-grade corporate debt funds tied with general U.S. government bond funds, with each sector gaining more than 0.8 percent on average. Plus, funds buying BBB-rated corporate bonds were up almost 0.8 percent.

Those performances may sound slim, but when one considers the 0.5 percent slide of the average growth and income fund, one of investors' favorite sectors, the gains look a touch more attractive.

Small-company funds and funds delving into the tiniest firms, or micro-cap funds, were hit harder. Small-cap funds lost 1.4 percent during the week, and micro-cap portfolios gave up 1.5 percent.

During the same period, the Russell 2000 index, a measure of small-capitalization stocks, fell 1.1 percent. The index has fallen 9.6 percent since its record close on April 21, which has been reflected in the relatively dismal year-to-date performance of small-cap and micro-cap funds. Small-cap portfolios are up 3.1 percent, while micro-caps are up 5.4 percent. In contrast, S&P 500 index funds are up 13.3 percent.

China region funds, however, have again claimed the basement position with a 9.5 percent average loss for the week. Those funds are down 28.8 percent this year. Pacific Ex-Japan funds fell 7.7 percent during the week, followed by gold-oriented funds, which were down 5.9 percent; natural resources funds were down 5.6 percent; and funds covering the entire Pacific region were down 5.5 per-cent.

While bond funds on the whole performed better, a few specialized domestic stock funds were the bright spots for the week. The GT Global Mid-Cap Growth Fund was up 3.4 percent for the week, although that was more of a flash in the pan because the fund has gained only 4.7 percent this year.

The Managers Capital Appreciation Fund has shown more consistent returns this year. After getting a 3.3 percent boost on the week, the fund is now up 19.6 percent for the year. That fund was followed by the Fidelity Select Medical fund, which was up 3.0 percent, and the Invesco Strategic Health Science Fund, up 2.7 percent. The Fidelity Select Retailing fund rounded out the top-five portfolios with a 2.6 percent gain.

The five worst-performing funds during the week demonstrate the concerns about China's market.

The week's laggards were the Guiness Flight Mainland China fund, down 14.0 percent; the Newport Greater China fund, down 12.8 percent; the US Global China Region Opportunities fund, down 12.0 percent; and the Guinness Flight Asia Small-Cap Fund, down 11.1 percent.

The worst performing fund of the week was the Lexington Troika Russia fund, down 14.3 percent.