The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII for football supremacy and the Vince Lombardi trophy. At

Ratings, we have our "Ultra" Fund Family Bowl XI. In this 11th quarterly ratings competition among the 417 fund families, our top two contenders,



Van Kampen

, stake their claim for the Baker trophy.

The first of two "Ultra" Fund Family bowl spots goes to the investment-management firms placing the most "starting players" on our quarterly top-200 list of open-end funds. This list is being published in section III of our winter 2008-09 edition of "

Ratings Guide to Stock Mutual Funds."

Fidelity, with 19 funds among the top 200, is working on an "Ultra" Fund Family Bowl dynasty with its sixth consecutive visit to the big game. Division champs getting knocked out in the playoffs this quarter were

ING Investments

, a subsidiary of

ING Group

(ING) - Get ING Groep NV Sponsored ADR Report



, with eight funds, and

American Century Investments


Transamerica Funds

, a unit of


(AEG) - Get AEGON N.V. ADR Report

, with seven funds on the top 200.

Wild-card spots went to

DWS Scudder

, a division of

Deutsche Bank

(DB) - Get Deutsche Bank AG Report


Ivy/Waddell & Reed Funds

, a unit of

Waddell & Reed Financial

(WDR) - Get Waddell & Reed Financial, Inc. Class A Report

, and


, each with 5 top-ranked funds.

The second route to the top of the "Ultra" Fund Family competition takes a more comprehensive view. Beyond just the starters, each fund family has to send all their second-string players and benchwarmers into the game, too.

To measure this, we break investment companies into groups by size to see which firms have the highest percentage of funds ranked in the top 30% of all open-end funds in comparison to other fund families of similar size. The top 30% represents overall investment grades of A+ down to B-. The middle 40% are fund grades of C+, C and C-, with D+ and lower in the bottom 30%.

Winning the "Ultra" Fund Family Bowl berth for the second quarter in a row, among fund families with 100 or more rated funds, is Van Kampen, a division of

Morgan Stanley

(MS) - Get Morgan Stanley (MS) Report

, with half of its 148 funds ranking in the top 30% of all open-end stock mutual funds we rate.

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Perennial playoff contender

American Funds

, with 44.7% in the top 30% of rated funds, is the runner-up.

Putnam Funds

, a unit of

Great-West Lifeco


at 41.4%,

Alliance Bernstein

, a subsidiary of


( AXA) at 41.2%, and American Century Investments, at 40.9%, joined in the playoff hunt.

At the college-football level are the best-performing fund families in the 40 to 99 rated fund group. Out of the 34 families in this range attempting to win a national championship,

Eaton Vance

(EV) - Get Eaton Vance Corp. Report

triumphed with 55.1% of its 89 funds ranking in the top 30%, improving upon its third-place finish last quarter. Moving up two spots is

Gabelli Funds

, with 49.4% of its 87 funds in the top 30%.

Lord Abbett

rounds out the top 3 college-level fund families at 44.2% of its 95 funds in the top 30%, a three-notch improvement from the previous quarter.

First Eagle

wins the high-school level over 61 other fund families with 10 to 39 rated funds. To regain the throne lost in the prior quarter, First Eagle scored a perfect 100%. All 15 of First Eagle's funds ranked in the top 30% of the funds we rate. A top 30% performance of 72.7% moved

Barclays Global

(BCS) - Get Barclays PLC Sponsored ADR Report

up one spot to second place on the 10 to 39 rated fund list with no funds ranked in the bottom 30% for the second consecutive quarter.

As of Dec. 31, 284 fund families had less than 10 rated open-end stock funds. None of the fund families with four to nine rated funds managed to keep all of them in the top 30% of fund rankings. At the three-out-of-three top-rated fund level are

AARP Investments

, a unit of

Zurich Financial Services AG


BBH Mutual Funds


Industry Leaders Funds


Jamestown Funds/LB&C






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Kevin Baker became the senior financial analyst for TSC Ratings upon the August 2006 acquisition of Weiss Ratings by, covering mutual funds. He joined the Weiss Group in 1997 as a banking and brokerage analyst. In 1999, he created the Weiss Group's first ratings to gauge the level of risk in U.S. equities. Baker received a B.S. degree in management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an M.B.A. with a finance specialization from Nova Southeastern University.