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Editor's note: As a special feature for April, is offering a series reviewing the first-quarter performance of mutual funds and ETFs. This is the fourth installment.

As we close the books on the first quarter of 2007, Ratings looks back at which fund families performed the best -- what we like to call "ultra" fund families.

There are two ways that a fund family can earn the designation of ultra fund family. One, the fund company can be one of the few that has the most funds on our quarterly top-200 list of open-end funds. Two, the fund can have a greater percentage of its funds ranked in the top 30% of all open-end funds compared with other fund families of similar size.

This quarter, Franklin Templeton Investments, a unit of

Franklin Resources

(BEN) - Get Franklin Resources, Inc. Report

, placed 16 funds in our top 200. This knocked MFS, a unit of

Sun Life Financial

(SLF) - Get Sun Life Financial Inc. Report

down to second place with 15 funds and Putnam Funds down to third from second with 13 funds.

Also doing well were AIM Investments, a unit of


( AVZ), with 11 funds, and Alliance Bernstein with 10 funds. Each share class is considered by Ratings as a separate fund.

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Once the effect of multiple share classes is taken away, two additional families rise to the top. GMO Funds and Dimensional Investment Group join Franklin Templeton Investments with six unique funds. Putnam Funds and AIM Investments tied for second place with five unique funds, and MFS came in third with four.

As of March 31, 2007, there remain just 34 fund companies with 100 or more open-end funds rated on a risk-adjusted return basis by Ratings. Being one of the top-five fund families on each of the lists below is the other way to be considered an ultra fund family.

Top 30% funds earned overall investment grades of A-plus down to B-minus. Those ranked in the middle 40% had grades of C-plus, C and C-minus. And D-plus or lower make up the bottom 30%.

American Funds holds the top spot on the list above for the third consecutive quarter. Of the 211 American funds we rate, 64.5% of them are ranked in the top 30%. Franklin Templeton, with 51.8% in the top 30%, narrowly edged out Vanguard's 51.6%, reversing their second- and third-place order from last quarter.

T.Rowe Price

(TROW) - Get T. Rowe Price Group Report

climbed from seventh place at year-end to fourth, and AIM rose from sixth to fifth.

Ivy Funds, a unit of

Waddell & Reed

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

regained the top spot on the 40-to-99-funds list, as GMO Funds, slipped to third place behind Gabelli Funds.

Of the 71 fund families with between 10 and 39 rated funds, Thornburg Funds retained the top ranking. Impressively, all 17 of its rated funds rank in the top 30%. Lazard Funds moved up two spots from a fourth-place finish in the fourth quarter to second place. This pushed Dimensional Investment Group down from second to third place.

We track 303 additional fund families that have fewer than 10 rated funds. Third Avenue takes the No. 1 spot with all four of its rated funds in the top 30%. Dodge & Cox and Longleaf Partners each placed all three of their rated funds in the top 30%.

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.