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Equity funds that were able to blend fixed-income investments into their portfolios achieved the highest marks from Ratings in February.

Half the funds in the accompanying list of the top-10-rated equity funds are classified in the asset-allocation category, meaning their managers have discretion to move into fixed-income investments when they feel returns in that sector will shield their portfolios from weak periods in stocks.

The mandate of an additional fund on the list, the

John Hancock Balanced Fund


, is "balanced," meaning it tends to maintain a relatively constant percentage of assets in fixed-income investments.

Global exposure also helped funds achieve top-10 status. The

BlackRock Global Allocaction Investment Fund


combines a broadly stated investment objective of allowing its management to switch a portion of its holdings into fixed-income investments but to combine international holdings with U.S.-domiciled portfolio selections.

The investment focus of top-10 member

MFS Global Return Fund


is also worldwide in scope.

Every fund on the list outperformed the S&P 500 total-return index for the most recent month, three months, 12 months and three years.

All but one moved up in February, when the S&P surrendered 3.24%. Six produced gains for their holders over the difficult past three months, a period when the S&P dropped just shy of 10%.

Each of the 10 funds posted positive results for the past 12 months, a period when the S&P suffered a net negative total return. Eight of the funds were in the double digits during this stretch, with the

Ivy Fund-Asset Strategy


up an impressive 39.98%.

Despite the weak overall equity market over the past year, no purely "inverse" stock funds achieved top-10 ratings status. But a fund with broad management discretion to switch from net "long" exposure to stocks into net "short" positions made the right calls and earned a place on the list. The

Prudent Bear Fund


climbed an impressive 4.83% in February, 10.14% over the past three months and 18.82% over the past year.

BEARX has compiled a strong track record of late -- it even boasts annualized growth of 10.25% over the past three years.

Richard Widows is a senior financial analyst for Ratings. Prior to joining, Widows was senior product manager for quantitative analytics at Thomson Financial Corp. After receiving an M.B.A. from Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley, California, his career included development of investment information systems at major data firms, including Interactive Data Corp. and the Lipper division of Reuters. His international experience includes postings in the U.K. and various Asian nations as a senior vice president of a Singapore investment software firm.