TORONTO, Aug. 2, 2013 /CNW/ - Most equity mutual funds had a solid start in the third quarter of 2013 in Canada. Of the 22 Morningstar Canada Fund Indices that measure the performance of equity categories, 17 increased in July, according to preliminary performance numbers today released by Morningstar Research Inc. ( Morningstar Canada), a subsidiary of independent investment research provider Morningstar, Inc. Positive performances by U.S. and most global equity markets were largely driven by the comments of U.S. policymakers; in particular, the Federal Reserve Board's assertion about its plan for the foreseeable future. Chairman Ben Bernanke's statement, "tapering is not tightening," —that interest rates are expected to stay low even as the Fed curbs its bond-buying program-was key to easing market fears. "The plan to maintain an accommodative policy was supported by similar messages by central banks around the world," Morningstar Fund Analyst Achilleas Taxildaris said. The best regional results were for the Morningstar Canada European Equity Fund Index, which increased 6.6%, and the U.S. Small/Mid Cap Equity Fund Index, with an increase of 4.7%. By comparison, with its broader focus, the U.S. Equity Fund Index was up 3.4% for the month. The geographically diversified Global Equity and North American Equity indices also fared well, with increases of 2.9% and 2.6%, respectively. Among the other top-performing categories, the Morningstar Canada Canadian Small/Mid Cap Equity Index was up 3.9%, while the Canadian Equity Fund Index increased 3.1%. Canadian investors benefited from an appreciating Canadian dollar and higher energy and commodity prices. "Concerns for the domestic economy are easing, with a soft landing for the housing market and expectations that Canada will track the improving U.S. economy over the long term," Taxildaris said. Slightly more positive results came from the Canadian Focused Small/Mid Cap Equity, Canadian Focused Equity, and International Equity Fund Indices, with each rising 3.3% for the month. Funds in the "Canadian Focused" categories must invest at least 50% and no more than 90% of their equity holdings in securities domiciled in Canada. In a sharp reversal from June's results, funds that focus on precious metals equities posted the biggest increases overall. The Precious Metals Equity Fund Index had an aggregate increase of 9.6%. "Gold prices rebounded this month because of renewed expectations for low rates," Taxildaris said.