For more coverage from TheStreet.com Ratings team, check out TheStreet.com Ratings section.

Before TheStreet.com 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 TheStreet.com 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.

"Target" funds tend to be conservative vehicles for individuals with investment plans extending well into the future. They typically start out heavily weighted on the equity side and then gravitate over the years to a tilt towards fixed income. For example, the AllianceBernstein 2045 Retirement Strategy Fund ( LTPAX), which can tolerate volatility because of its distant target date, contains Google ( GOOG), Apple ( AAPL) and Exxon Mobil ( XOM). Versions of the series with close target dates are more heavily weighted with Treasury notes.

Similarly, Hartford Target Retirement 2030 Fund ( MLTAX) invests in other Hartford portfolios that expose holders to blue-chip stocks such as General Electric ( GE), IBM ( IBM), Boeing ( BA) and Goldman Sachs ( GS). Versions of the series with closer target dates edge their portfolio mixes more toward fixed income positions.

Underlying companies held by portfolios in the MFS Lifetime 2040 Fund ( MFFAX) include AT&T ( T) and Metropolitan Life Insurance ( MET). Like the other target sets, MFS Lifetime series with closer target dates invest more in bonds.

The evidence in the nearby list is still probably too circumstantial to indicate that mutual fund management firms are edging toward a path of serving that true needs of the public rather than attracting the transitory assets of trend followers and momentum investors. But it seems to indicate that lat least three years ago, they began taking steps in the right direction.

Below is a table outlining the 50 equity funds we just added to our rating pool. They are listed alphabetically.

Leaning Toward the Conservative Side
Stock Funds Newly Graded by TheStreet.com Ratings
Name (Ticker), TheStreet.com Ratings Grade 3-Month Total Return (%) 12-Month Total Return (%) 3-Year Annual Return (%) MIN. Initial Investment MAX. Initial Sales Change (%)
Allegiant Multi-Factor Sml Cap Gr A (ALWAX) C -10.75 -15.22 -0.10 500 5.50
Allegiant Multi-Fct Sm Cap Core A (ALOAX) C -9.35 -18.87 -1.30 500 5.50
Allegiant Multi-Fct Sm Cp Foc Val A (ALUAX) C- -2.42 -17.13 -3.85 500 5.50
AllianceBern 2000 Ret Strat A (LTAAX) B+ -8.46 -14.58 1.60 2,500 4.25
AllianceBern 2005 Ret Strat A (LTBAX) B -9.83 -17.44 0.78 2,500 4.25
AllianceBern 2010 Ret Strat A (LTDAX) C+ -11.14 -19.96 0.54 2,500 4.25
AllianceBern 2020 Ret Strat A (LTHAX) C -13.03 -24.34 -0.56 2,500 4.25
AllianceBern 2025 Ret Strat A (LTIAX) C- -13.81 -26.03 -0.30 2,500 4.25
AllianceBern 2030 Ret Strat A (LTJAX) C- -14.20 -26.92 -0.88 2,500 4.25
AllianceBern 2035 Ret Strat A (LTKAX) C- -14.52 -27.47 -0.87 2,500 4.25
AllianceBern 2040 Ret Strat A (LTLAX) C- -14.41 -27.33 -0.53 2,500 4.25
AllianceBern 2045 Ret Strat A (LTPAX) C- -14.62 -27.50 -0.64 2,500 4.25
American Century Discpl Gr A (ADCVX) C- -14.45 -23.67 -0.24 2,500 5.75
American Century Long-Short Eq A (ALIAX) B+ -6.89 -6.71 1.27 2,500 5.75
Archer Balanced Fund (ARCHX) B+ -2.64 -15.30 0.54 2,000 0.00
CAN SLIM Select Growth Fund (CANGX) C- -11.39 -12.63 -0.76 2,500 0.00
DFA Intl Core Equity Portfolio (DFIEX) C+ -19.39 -30.57 3.19 2,000,000 0.00
DFA US Core Equity 1 Portfolio (DFEOX) B+ -7.27 -20.60 2.56 2,000,000 0.00
DFA US Core Equity 2 Portfolio (DFQTX) B+ -6.74 -21.36 2.01 2,000,000 0.00
Federated MDT Large Cap Gr Fd A (QALGX) D+ -18.55 -24.43 -0.92 1,500 5.50
Federated MDT Mid Cap Gr Fd A (QAMGX) D- -19.82 -27.19 0.30 1,500 5.50
Federated MDT Sm Cap Value Fd A (QASVX) C -8.42 -15.92 0.14 1,500 5.50
Federated MDT Small Cap Gr Fd A (QASGX) C- -9.79 -24.17 0.90 1,500 5.50
Federated MDT Small Cp Core Fd A (QASCX) C- -10.60 -27.00 -0.64 1,500 5.50
Federated MDT Tax Aw/All Cp Cr A (QATAX) C- -15.57 -22.38 -1.21 1,500 5.50
Fidelity Adv Strat Real Return A (FSRAX) B+ -10.27 -3.96 1.11 2,500 4.00
Fidelity Strategic Real Return Fund (FSRRX) A -10.31 -3.83 1.36 2,500 0.00
GE Insti Fds Sm Cp Eq Fd Svc (GSQSX) B- -8.07 -17.14 0.67 5,000,000 0.00
Halter Pope USX China A (HPCHX) E- -26.04 -46.35 0.40 2,500 4.50
Hansberger Eme Markts Fd Adv (HEMMX) D- -28.26 -32.39 5.67 2,500 0.00
Hansberger Intl Core Fd Adv (HICCX) D+ -22.81 -30.61 2.34 2,500 0.00
Hansberger Intl Growth Fd Adv (HIGGX) D -23.03 -31.36 1.84 2,500 0.00
Hansberger Intl Value Fd Adv (HIVVX) C+ -21.92 -28.08 3.58 2,500 0.00
Harding Loevner Intl Equity Inv (HLMNX) B -16.77 -20.66 3.92 25,000 0.00
Hartford Retirement Income A (HTRAX) B+ -7.68 -9.69 0.26 1,000 5.50
Hartford Target Retirement 2010 A (HTTAX) B- -10.80 -14.56 0.14 1,000 5.50
Hartford Target Retirement 2020 A (HTWAX) C+ -12.15 -18.01 -0.14 1,000 5.50
Hartford Target Retirement 2030 A (HTHAX) C -12.72 -20.26 -0.49 1,000 5.50
ING GET U.S. Core Portfolio -Ser 9 (IGUKX) A+ -1.03 -9.83 1.96 0 0.00
Lazard U.S. Eqty Value Prt Open (LEVOX) B- -6.33 -23.62 1.30 10,000 0.00
MFS Lifetime 2010 Fund A (MFSAX) A+ -3.98 -5.52 3.25 1,000 5.75
MFS Lifetime 2020 Fund A (MFLAX) B -9.60 -15.52 2.07 1,000 5.75
MFS Lifetime 2030 Fund A (MLTAX) C -13.21 -21.48 0.48 1,000 5.75
MFS Lifetime 2040 Fund A (MLFAX) C -13.73 -22.34 0.17 1,000 5.75
MFS Lifetime Retirement Inc A (MLLAX) A+ -3.40 -3.67 2.62 1,000 5.75
Oppenheimer Intl Diversified A (OIDAX) D- -20.90 -33.19 0.84 1,000 5.75
ProFunds Short Oil & Gas Inv (SNPIX) D 26.74 7.27 -8.80 15,000 0.00
ProFunds Short Real Estate Inv (SRPIX) D -11.55 1.97 -5.00 15,000 0.00
Rydex Series-Ablt Ret St A (RYMQX) C+ -6.89 -9.12 0.44 25,000 4.75
Rydex Series-Hedged Eqty A (RYSLX) C+ -8.01 -14.96 -1.76 2,500 4.75
Data as of 9/30/2008.
Source: TheStreet.com Ratings & Bloomberg

For more information, check out an explanation of our ratings.

Richard Widows is a senior 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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