TSC Ratings provides exclusive stock, ETF and mutual fund ratings and commentary based on award-winning, proprietary tools. Its "safety first" approach to investing aims to reduce risk while seeking solid outperformance on a total return basis.

A late April fool's joke?

No. A mutual fund focused on U.S. retail stocks is really among the top 25 performers for March. After eliminating leveraged and inverse funds, investors also jumped into emerging-markets, Russia and China funds.

TheStreet.com Ratings' model for stock mutual funds ranks the Fidelity Select Retailing Portfolio ( FSRPX) in the "buy" range, with the fund's net asset value expanding more than 19%.

TheStreet.com Ratings

Retail stocks held by the fund turned up with the overall market that bottomed in early March, with investors seeing bargain-basement pricing on company shares. Men's Wearhouse ( MW), up more than 42%, and JC Penney ( JCP), up nearly 31%, both looked sharp as masses of recently unemployed invest in new interview suits.

Home Depot ( HD) added 14%, while Lowe's ( LOW) improved by 15% as they benefited from homes being fixed up and readied for sale. Whole Foods Market ( WFMI), up 38%; Best Buy ( BBY), up almost 32%; and Target ( TGT), up 21%, were other retail winners in March.

Representing a potential opportunity in the global investing front, Dreyfus Greater China Fund ( DPCRX) is the other fund ranked in the "buy" range in our list of best performers. The fund is allocated to 70% China, 21% Hong Kong, 8% Taiwan and 1% Singapore. The fund jumped 22% in the month.

China is enjoying the limelight on the world stage at the G20 meeting. The country is commanding a greater say in world economics due to its status as a creditor nation with a growing economy. A revival of U.S. retailers selling significant quantities of Chinese goods only bodes well for Chinese stocks.

Best-Performing Stock Mutual Funds in March
Fund (Ticker)
Overall Rating
Reward Grade Risk Grade Objective Total Return 1 Month Total Return 1 Year
Dreyfus Emerging Asia Fund (DEAAX) U U U Region Fund-Asian Pacific 26.00% -40.75%
Matthews Korea Fund (MAKOX) E+ E D+ Country Fund-South Korea 25.60% -46.42%
Top Flight Fund (TOPFX) U U U Market Neutral-Equity 25.06% -12.04%
ING Russia Fund (LETRX) E E- D Country Fund-Russia 23.85% -65.92%
JPMorgan Russia Fund (JRUAX) U U U Income Equity 22.75% -75.50%
Dreyfus Greater China Fund (DPCRX) B- A D+ Country Fund-China 22.48% -35.39%
Fidelity Select Automotive Portfolio (FSAVX) E- E- D- Sector Fund-Autos 21.85% -63.17%
Birmiwal Oasis Fund (BIRMX) U U U Growth 19.20% -61.98%
Fidelity Select Retailing Portfolio (FSRPX) B- B C- Sector Fund-Retail 19.15% -13.39%
AIM Financial Services Fund (FSFSX) E E- D Sector Fund-Financial Service 19.05% -65.79%
Harbor SMID Value Fund (HASMX) U U U Value 18.75% -51.57%
Legg Mason Opportunity Trust (LMOPX) E- E- E Growth 18.72% -62.98%
MTB Equity Income Fund (AREIX) D- E+ C- Income Equity 18.58% -42.45%
Upright Growth Fund (UPUPX) U U U Value 18.40% -54.10%
Morgan Stanley Institutional Fund Trust - Value Portfolio (MPVAX) C- D+ C Value 18.34% -33.95%
Hotchkis and Wiley All Cap Value Fund (HWAAX) D- E C- Value 18.34% -40.95%
John Hancock Funds II - Emerging Markets Value Fund (JEVNX) U U U Emerging Market-Equity 18.22% NA
Advisors Series Trust - Huber Capital Small Cap Value Fund (HUSIX) U U U Value-Small Cap 17.97% -44.08%
John Hancock Global Opportunities Fund (JGPAX) D+ C+ E- Global Equity 17.86% -43.81%
Oppenheimer Baring China Fund (OBCAX) U U U Country Fund-China 17.61% -32.21%
John Hancock Emerging Markets Value Trust (JEMAX) U U U Emerging Market-Equity 17.58% NA
Touchstone Large-Cap Value Fund (TLCAX) U U U Growth & Income-Large Cap 17.53% -70.60%
Metzler/Payden European Emerging Markets Fund (MPYMX) E E- D Emerging Market-Equity 17.41% -66.85%
Vanguard Precious Metals and Mining Fund (VGPMX) D- D+ D- Sector Fund-Precious Metals 17.32% -58.59%
World Funds Inc - Third Millennium Russia Fund (TMRFX) E- E- E- Country Fund-Russia 17.33% -71.88%
Source: Bloomberg and TheStreet.com Ratings

The grades can be interpreted as follows: A is "excellent" and considered a "buy" recommendation. B is "good" or "buy." C is "fair" or "hold." D is "weak" or "sell." And E is "very weak" or "sell." A plus or minus sign designates that a fund is in the top or bottom third of funds with the same letter grade.

Kevin Baker became the senior financial analyst for TSC Ratings upon the August 2006 acquisition of Weiss Ratings by TheStreet.com, 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.

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