Putnam New Century Growth

, the Boston fund shop's high-octane "New Economy" fund that just opened in January is set to close to new investors March 10.

When Putnam first offered the broker-sold fund to the public on Jan. 21 it set a $1 billion asset ceiling. Through last Friday the fund, up 12.4% since Jan. 1, had $802 billion. By the time the fund closes, it may actually top the $1 billion mark.

The fund, which focuses on small- and mid-caps, was actually launched on Feb. 18, 1998 and managed in incubation-only offered to Putnam and affiliate employees until its public launch. It boasts a 166% return in 1999, albeit with the significant benefits of a fixed asset base and a 65% weighting in technology stocks.

The average mid-cap growth fund doesn't have as much money as this fund has raised in little more than a month. The fund's gaudy returns certainly played a part in its launch's success, but so did brokers' confidence in co-managers Roland Gillis and Charles Swanberg co-manage the fund. The pair also run

(PVIIX)

Putnam Voyager II, whose 36.3% average annual return over the past five years beats 75% of its mid-cap growth competitors, according to

Morningstar

.

New Century Growth isn't necessarily cheap though. Among its various share classes, maximum front-end loads range from 3.5% to 5.75% and maximum back-end loads range from 1% to 5%. The different share classes annual expenses range from 1.25% to 2%. The average mid-cap growth fund's annual expenses are 1.63%, according to Morningstar.

New Sub-Advisers for Forward Equity, International Equity

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Forward Equity and

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International Equity have new sub-advisers as two industry heavyweights are being replaced.

Garzarelli Investment Management

replaces

Barclays Global Fund Advisors

on Equity and

Hansberger Global Advisors

takes International's reins from vaunted international specialist

Templeton Investment Council

, a unit of

Franklin-Templeton

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. It's a quick hook as both funds are less than two years old.

The management change might not be a surprise on the young international fund, whose 23% return over the past year lags 80% of its peers, according to Morningstar. But Barclays has reason to be a bit miffed. Equity's 12.6% return over the past year is actually beating almost 60% of its large-cap blend peers.

Both funds will be actively managed, International Equity was passively managed under Barclays' short watch. Garzarelli will use a sector-focused research approach, developed by founder Elaine Garzarelli, on Equity and Hansberger will focus on growth stocks in managing International Equity.

Interestingly, the firm's founder, Tom Hansberger, is actually the former chairman and president of Templeton Worldwide, now a unit of Franklin-Templeton. Garzarelli is famous for predicting the market crash in October 1987.

ReliaStar Buys Lexington Funds

ReliaStar Financial

(RLR)

announced an agreement today to acquire

Lexington Global Asset Managers

(LGAM)

, which has $3.6 billion in assets. ReliaStar plans to add Lexington's 13 mutual funds to its own

Pilgrim Capital

fund family.

The deal, a stock and cash transaction valued at $47.5 million, will leave Pilgrim with $20 billion in assets once the two fund families are combined next quarter.

ReliaStar, a Minneapolis insurer, bought Pilgrim Capital last October (you may recall Pilgrim

owns

Nicholas-Applegate's

retail funds as well). ReliaStar merged its own

Northstar

funds into the Pilgrim family. The Lexington funds also will take on the Pilgrim label, according to a ReliaStar spokeswoman.

With the new name will probably come sales charges, too. Lexington funds are no-load, but Pilgrim's are sold through brokers and typically levy sales charges, or loads.

It is likely that Lexington's existing shareholders will still be able to buy shares without paying a load, but that the funds will add load share classes once the fund shops merge. This is how

Franklin-Templeton

handled its acquisition of Michael Price's popular no-load

Mutual Series

funds. A Pilgrim spokesman didn't return a call for comment. Given the Lexington funds' modest assets -- many have less than $100 million -- it might make sense to add loads rather than market them separately.

ReliaStar says it struck the deal to bolster its international money-management capabilities, but Pilgrim already has several global and international funds with solid records, including

(NIGRX)

International Small Cap Growth,

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(NIVAX)

International Value and

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Worldwide Growth, each of which beat at least 70% of its peers over the past three years, according to

Morningstar

.

The combination will probably follow the standard industry blueprint where similar funds are combined, with the one with the best track record surviving.

"In any merger of fund complexes, there's a product line rationalization that follows," says Andrew Guillette, a consultant at Boston fund-researcher

Cerulli Associates

.

For instance,

(NAEGX)

Pilgrim Small Cap Growth has a better record than

Lexington Small Cap

, and

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Pilgrim Worldwide Growth is a better performer than

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Lexington Corporate Leaders.

Lexington's top-performing funds last year were

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Troika Russia and

(LEXGX)

Worldwide Emerging Markets, which were up 160% and 113%, respectively.

Federated Funds on Sale

Federated Investors

put four of its broker-sold growth funds on sale for March, offering them with no load.

Through March 31, you can buy class A shares of

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Aggressive Growth,

(FCTAX)

Communications Technology,

(FLGAX)

Large Cap Growth and

(ISCAX) - Get Federated Intl Small-Mid Co A Report

International Small Company without paying the maximum 5.5% sales charge.

You also can exchange assets among the four funds without paying a load, but you'll pay a 2% back-end sales charge on shares sold within 30 months.

Each fund is a solid performer vs. its peers. Last year, the $125 billion fund company took in $1.2 billion more than it lost to redemptions, according to Boston fund consultant

Financial Research

. That seems like a modest inflow given the firm's size, but about half of all fund complexes were in net outflows last year.

Preparing for 2001

Now that the much ballyhooed Y2K crisis that wasn't is past us,

(HSYTX)

HomeState Year 2000 is getting with the times.

Shareholders approved a name change and broadened investment scope. From now on, the fund will be

HomeState Select Technology

and look at tech companies beyond those involved in year 2000 preparation.

Given the fund's performance, it's almost surprising that shareholders tinkered with the fund at all. Over the past year, co-managers Kenneth Mertz II and Steven Russell are up more than 332%, ranking fourth out of 82 other tech funds, according to

Lipper

.

The fund's ticker, HSYTX, won't change.

See Monday's

Openings, Closings, Manager Moves.