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Before Ratings can rate a fund, it needs three years of data and research to back up the grade. So the latest additions to our funds coverage, some 50 equity funds we added in September, reflect those investment vehicles that debuted in September 2005.

The funds that launched that month are notable for the seachange they seemed to represent at the time. Still smarting from the late-trading and market-timing scandals but in the midst or a brisk recovery from the 2000-02 bear market, it seems the mutual fund industry -- against all expectations -- decided to get a bit of religion three years ago.

Largely absent from the accompanying table of the 50 equity funds born in September of 2005 are offerings of the "hot concept" variety that populated the industry's creations from the late 1990s. The list represents the latest open-end equity funds to be graded by Ratings. Three years of history are necessary for the review process.

Perusal of the list reveals fund names containing relatively subdued connotations such as "retirement," "value," "lifetime," "core," "disciplined," "hedged" and "real return." Missing are the shoot-for-the-moon high-growth handles reminiscent of a few years earlier.

Whereas the dominant marketing strategy of many stock funds in the late-1990s aimed at grabbing the "hot money" with market-eclipsing returns, the adjoining table seems to indicate by 2005 the objective had matured to a mission of acquiring investor assets by deliberately positioning funds for long-term, steady appreciation. If this indeed has become a permanent trend in the industry's approach to serving investors, then, at long last, chalk one up for the mutual fund world.

An indication that fund firms might be turning the corner and looking beyond the most recent quarterly performance numbers is the dominance of "target maturity" offerings in the table. A total of 16 funds from the AllianceBernstein Retirement Strategy, Hartford Target Retirement and MFS Lifetime groupings populate the list.