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How to Analyze Mutual Fund Performance

Opening your mutual fund statement at the end of the second quarter should be a lot less painful than it's been in years.

The broader market, after all, has shot up 11% since the end of March. The Nasdaq's done even better, rocketing 14%.

But after the glee subsides, you'll have to think about what this fund performance is telling you and what changes you should make to your investments -- if any.

Here's a sampling of what you might see when that statement arrives, and what you should do.

Compare, Compare, Compare

Performance is the only thing you'll really see when you rip open that account statement. It's valuable but easily misused. A fund that's up a lot over a short period of time isn't necessarily a good investment. And a fund that's down a lot may not be so bad.

The point is: You cannot look at this information in a vacuum. A good fund in an out-of-favor sector can be better going forward than a bad fund in a hot area.

First, you'll have to compare how your stock funds have done vs. broad-market benchmarks like the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq. Then you can move on to examine how those funds have done against their peers.

Morningstar's Web site includes a simple performance ranking of all mutual fund categories for the past month, three months, year and so on. Click here to go to the performance ranking.

So you shouldn't expect a large-cap value fund to have kept up with, say, that tech fund you have leftover from the late '90s. Value stocks held up incredibly well in 2000 and 2001, when the rest of the market was collapsing. That corner of the market is up this year, but just not as much as riskier sectors like tech.

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