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Hybrid Funds Stand Out in Year-to-Date Returns

They make up only a small fraction of the broad "equity" category of open-end mutual funds. Yet "hybrid" funds that blend equity and fixed-income investments in their portfolios placed five members on the accompanying list of the 10 equity funds with the highest year-to-date marks from Ratings.

Every fund in the table sports an A+ grade.

Three of the hybrids on the list are of the domestic "asset allocation" species that vary their equity/fixed-income mixes to optimize returns according to the outlooks of their respective managers.

One other fund on the list does the same, with the added option of doing so with a worldwide scope.

The remaining hybrid fund, the John Hancock Balanced Fund (SVBAX), tends to maintain a steadier stock/bond mix that's generally tilted in favor of equities.

SVBAX's largest holdings are Alcoa (AA - Get Report) and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM - Get Report).

Of the remaining funds in the table, two are broadly classified in domestic growth category. However, the second word in the name of the Pinnacle Value Fund (PVFIX) suggests a generally conservative investment posture.

Although its stated objective is long-term capital appreciation, PVFIX has edged toward an asset allocation approach by recently holding cash and equivalents equal to more than 60% of its portfolio value. Its largest securities holdings are Argan (AGX - Get Report) and Conrad Industries (CNRD).

The other member of the elite group listed broadly as a domestic growth fund has been achieving its portfolio gains using the unconventional methodology suggest by its name: The Prudent Bear Fund (BEARX).

Of the 10 funds on the list, BEARX's 5.42% appreciation for the first three months of the year tops the list, while its 12-month gain or 16.50% outscored all but one of the others.

Two of the funds on the list are broadly classified as equity income funds. One of them, the TFS Market Neutral Fund (TFSMX), is another unconventional fund -- appropriate for these uncommon times -- whose investment strategy is given away by its name.

The fund's portfolio of long and short positions produced a return of 7.08% for the 12 months ended March 31, a period when the S&P 500 total-return index skidded 5.08%.

TSFMX's setback of 1.52% during the first quarter of 2008 was relatively mild when compared with the S&P's decline of 9.45% for the same period. Ratings Top-Rated Equity & Hybrid Mutual Funds
BB&T Equity Income A (BAEIX) A+ Equity Income -3.12 2.19 12.25 Front Load
BlackRock Glb Allocation Inv A (MDLOX) A+ Asset Allocation - Global -1.77 12.36 13.36 Front Load
Fidelity Adv Consumer Staples A (FDAGX) A+ Growth - Domestic -2.54 12.81 14.27 Front Load
Ivy Fund-Asset Strategy A (WASAX) A+ Asset Allocation - Domestic -2.49 33.19 25.42 Front Load
J Hancock Balanced A (SVBAX) A+ Balanced - Domestic -3.28 14.67 15.33 Front Load
Permanent Portfolio Fund (PRPFX) A+ Asset Allocation - Domestic 3.83 13.81 13.07 No Load
PIMCO All Asset All Authority A (PAUAX) A+ Asset Allocation - Domestic 3.30 10.31 7.57 Front Load
Pinnacle Value Fund (PVFIX) A+ Growth - Domestic -2.70 7.78 11.45 No Load
Prudent Bear Fd (BEARX) A+ Growth - Domestic 5.42 16.50 8.92 No Load
TFS Market Neutral Fund (TFSMX) A+ Equity Income -1.52 7.08 13.20 No Load
S&P 500 Composite Total Return -9.45 -5.08 5.85
Blend: 60% S&P 500-- 40% Lehman Bros. Aggreg. Bond Index -4.88 0.03 5.82
Blend: 60% MSCI World-- 40% Lehman Bros. Aggreg. Bond Index -4.54 1.51 8.42
For an explanation of our ratings, click here.
Source: Ratings - Data as of 3/31/2008.
Richard Widows is a senior financial analyst for Ratings. Prior to joining, Widows was senior product manager for quantitative analytics at Thomson Financial. After receiving an M.B.A. from Santa Clara University in California, his career included development of investment information systems at data firms, including the Lipper division of Reuters. His international experience includes assignments in the U.K. and East Asia.

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