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 Nasdaq 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.

Bull Market's Biggest Winners
NAME, TICKER & TheStreet.com RATINGS GRADE 5-YR. ANN'L RET'N (%) 5-YR. APPREC. OF $1,000 * BEST BULL MKT. YEAR RET'N IN BEST YEAR (%) MIN. INITIAL INVEST- MENT
LEADING OPEN-END FUNDS
BlackRock Latin America Inv A (MDLTX) C+ 55.52 $9,097 2003 68.14 1,000
Fidelity Latin American Fund (FLATX) B- 53.79 $8,603 2003 65.78 2,500
T. Rowe Price Latin America (PRLAX) B- 53.66 $8,568 2005 60.05 2,500
Fidelity Adv Latin America A (FLTAX) B- 52.58 $8,271 2003 64.80 2,500
Eaton Vance Greater India A (ETGIX) C 48.33 $7,180 2003 117.31 1,000
DWS Latin America Eq Fund A (SLANX) C+ 47.95 $7,090 2003 54.48 1,000
US Global Inv Global Resources (PSPFX) C- 47.56 $6,996 2003 99.56 5,000
Principal Inv Intl Emrg Mkts A (PRIAX) C+ 46.75 $6,805 2005 74.27 1,000
ING Russia A (LETRX) C+ 46.18 $6,675 2003 75.89 1,000
US Global Accolade East European (EUROX) C- 44.97 $6,403 2003 61.35 5,000
TOP DIVERSIFIED EQUITY FUNDS
Pacific Advisors Small Cap A (PASMX) B- 34.96 $4,477 2003 83.21 1,000
CGM Focus Fund (CGMFX) B 32.86 $4,140 2003 66.46 2,500
Turner New Enterprise Fund (TBTBX) C+ 30.89 $3,841 2003 92.69 2,500
Hodges Fund (HDPMX) A 29.97 $3,709 2003 80.24 250
Bruce Fund (BRUFX) B 29.24 $3,605 2003 63.15 1,000
BEST PERFORMING SECTOR FUNDS
Jacob Internet Fund (JAMFX) C 42.18 $5,810 2003 101.25 2,500
CGM Realty Fund (CGMRX) C 39.69 $5,318 2003 89.71 2,500
Vanguard Prec. Metals & Mining Fd (VGPMX) C+ 37.46 $4,908 2003 59.45 10,000
JennDry Jennison Nat Resources A (PGNAX) B- 37.36 $4,889 2002 54.19 2,500
Fidelity Select Wireless Fund (FWRLX) B 34.85 $4,459 2003 68.31 2,500
TOP FUND INVESTMENT OBJECTIVES
Emerging Market Equity 37.03 $4,831 2003 56.58
Sector - Energy/Natural Res 29.00 $3,572 2005 40.34
Sector - Precious Metals 27.28 $3,340 2002 58.16
Non-US Equity 24.19 $2,954 2003 39.22
Sector - Utilities 22.88 $2,802 2006 26.23
Sector - Real Estate 21.30 $2,626 2003 36.66
Sector - Tech/Communications 20.74 $2,566 2003 52.89
Global Equity 20.03 $2,491 2003 34.97
Small Cap 17.90 $2,278 2003 43.72
Mid Cap 17.73 $2,262 2003 36.31
SELECTED BENCHMARKS
S&P 500 Composite Total Return 15.45 $2,051 2003 28.69
S&P 400 Mid-Cap Total Return 18.17 $2,305 2003 35.62
Russell 2000 Index 18.75 $2,361 2003 47.25
Nasdaq Composite Index 18.18 $2,305 2003 50.01
MSCI EAFE Index 24.05 $2,938 2003 39.17
IFC Emerg Mkts - Comp Global (US$) 38.72 $5,137 2003 54.44
FTSE NAREIT REIT: All 19.86 $2,474 2003 38.47
Gold: London PM 18.08 $2,295 2002 25.57
Merrill Lynch 91-Day Treasury Index 2.94 $1,156 2006 4.85
* Appreciation, with distributions reinvested, but excluding sales commissions.
Excludes leveraged funds.
Source: TheStreet.com Ratings (Data as of 9/30/2007).

Richard Widows is a financial analyst for TheStreet.com Ratings. Prior to joining TheStreet.com, 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.

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