It seems you can't turn away from your portfolio without stumbling upon a newly sprouted fund that's offering to deliver returns in yet another way. But despite some of the eye-opening newcomers that hit the market last year (can you believe the
?), it was a virtual desert of new offerings. Only about 390 new funds debuted in 1999, about 300 fewer than the previous year.
Recently, however, there have been signs that the tide may be turning. Though reliable numbers are hard to come by, anecdotally it seems that the pace of debuts is increasing.
With a record-breaking February that saw $21.2 billion coming into mutual funds, it's not hard to see why fund complexes want to grab a piece of the action.
There have been about 220 new filings with the
Securities and Exchange Commission
in this young year, estimates Jonas Ferris, co-founder of
, a Web site focusing on new and obscure mutual funds. That's a significant rise over the 177 new fund filings this time last year. Of course, just because a fund is in registration doesn't mean it will come to fruition. But this week's 10% selloff in the
notwithstanding, there's plenty of incentive for fund companies to follow through.
New funds nabbed more than 10% of all new inflows last year -- a result of both a bigger effort by the companies to draw assets into their funds and shareholders' desire to get into the next hot new thing.
"You still have a relatively small number of new funds,'' says Avi Nachmany, president of New York-based fund consulting firm
, "but a significant number of those new funds are having tremendous success right out of the gate."
Many of the most successful new fund launches have been in technology. A year ago, there were only a handful of Internet funds. Today there are about 30 and some dozen more in registration.
Merrill Lynch Internet Strategies
fund, for example, made its debut on Monday and gathered an impressive $1.1 billion in new assets during a prelaunch subscription period.
Two no-load funds from
, have $200 million between them. And
fund is sporting a $200 million asset size a few months after launching.
You'll see more
Internet funds in the wake of
Munder NetNet closing," predicts fund consultant Burton Greenwald.
But some fund complexes aren't just capitalizing on the frenzy for tech. Most notably,
launched its first value offering March 1, the
Strategic Value Fund
, which took in more than $1.5 billion in assets.
set a record by raising more than $2 billion for its broker-sold
fund prior to launch.
Last year's fund launch totals were the lowest since 1995, according to Nachmany, indicating a reluctance by fund companies to get into areas they didn't know. "If a company's heritage is in value management, it will take a while to focus expertise in stocks with 7,000 P/Es," he quips.
But that seems less true now.
"Companies are thinking that if they have everything, that will protect them against a market downturn," says Ed Rosenbaum, director of research with