The record highs set by the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 index during the week ended Oct. 5 were appropriate birthday presents for the current bull market, which marks its fifth anniversary on Oct. 9. That was the date in 2002 when the major U.S. market indices reached their lowest closing levels of the 2000-2002 bloodbath.

Unless you own one of a handful of funds that bet against the market, the past half decade has been unusually rewarding. The rewards for those holding emerging market funds -- especially those focused on Latin America -- have been particularly munificent.

For a significant percentage of emerging markets funds, every dollar of value in the funds five years ago is now worth more than $5. And for holders of some Latin American funds, the payoff for every dollar in their respective funds in late 2002 is now approaching $10.

The best-performing open-end mutual funds for the five years ended Sept. 30, 2007, are displayed in the accompanying table, along with the best performing fund investment objectives and selected market indices.

Except for a single global resources fund, the top 10 performers for the past five years are exclusively emerging market offerings.

In order to provide a more representative presentation of leaders, lists of the top five diversified equity funds and sector funds were included in the table.

Although the rewards for the past five years might seem to be super-sized, they must be viewed in the context of the two-year market implosion that preceded the current bull run.

From its previous all-time high in March of 2000, half the value of the S&P 500 evaporated -- 49.15%, to be exact -- by the time the broad-based index bottomed on Oct. 9 of 2002. The then high-flying


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composite crumbled 77.89% from its 2000 peak to its 2002 trough.

Except for some relatively mild corrections along the way, the stock prices have adapted to some major changes in the economic milieu over the past half decade.

Five years ago this month, the euro was worth roughly 98 cents in U.S. currency vs. its recent value of about $1.41. Gold fluctuated at around $319 an ounce, less than half its current quotes in the $740 range. Most striking, crude oil was selling at $22.50 per barrel, a small fraction of its recent value of $81.

Over the past five years the key federal funds interest rate spent time as low as 1% and then as high as 5.25% for much of the current rally before being pulled back recently to 4.75% by the

Federal Reserve


In 2002 the investment community was just beginning to take notice of an investment vehicle that had been around since 1993 but had not yet received broad-based attention.

That year, 10 new exchange-traded funds came into existence, bringing the total at year-end to 124. This year, 192 ETFs have been brought to life through the end of September, bringing the total to 577.

Richard Widows is a financial analyst for Ratings. Prior to joining, Widows was senior product manager for quantitative analytics at Thomson Financial. After receiving an M.B.A. from Santa Clara University in California, his career included development of investment information systems at data firms, including the Lipper division of Reuters. His international experience includes assignments in the U.K. and East Asia.