In a month when stocks fell enough to qualify as a bad full year, a handful of equity mutual funds made headway against the torrent of selling, half of them foreign-focused.
Now, investors have to decide if the gains, during a month when the benchmark
tumbled more than 10%, were harbingers of incipient reversals or dead-cat bounces after drops from lofty peaks.
The 10 stock funds populating the adjoining table represent February's best stock-fund performers, excluding the ubiquitous leveraged and "inverse" participants that routinely cluster at both extremities of the performance array.
The foreign-focused entries may have simply enjoyed rebounds after brutal falls. Even after their one-month gains, the three Russian funds, the China play and the international small-cap portfolio remain below water by as much as 81% for the most recent 12 months.
The two Russian funds with sufficient histories for evaluation from
Ratings -- the
ING Russia Fund
World Funds Third Millennium Russia Fund
-- receive the lowest possible grade of E-minus from
Ratings, classifying them as "sell" recommendations. The
Oppenheimer International Small Company Fund
is also an E-minus, while the
Oberweis China Opportunities Fund
rates a D-plus, also equivalent to a "sell" recommendation.
Tocqueville Gold Fund
has international holdings in its precious metals portfolio. Along with the
Fidelity Select Telecom Portfolio
, the funds are graded by
Ratings in the "C" range, making them "hold" recommendations.
The only member of the group with positive results for the latest 12 months is a hedge-fund lookalike, the
Virtus Market Neutral Fund
, which has eked by with a gain of 0.10% for the period. Its steady performance in the face of recent market turbulence earns it the highest possible grade of A-plus, equivalent to a "buy" recommendation, from