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In the message above this (#17140 at http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=27801769) clearbranch said:

I am underwhelmed by all of the mutual funds I have looked at in the last 4 years. If ANY of them have made a (significant)profit I would be surprised.

This got me thinking (which is always dangerous). I went to Morningstar and ran a screen. The message specifies "all" mutual funds, so I screened for ALL stock funds, domestic and international. To make it "Foolish" I specified that the funds must have no sales load, and be open to new investment, at a minimum purchase of $3500 or less.

I tinkered with the numbers to get a list manageable for posting here, finally arriving at these performance criteria:
YTD return > 24%
5 year return > 12%
3 year return > 6%
(I hope somebody appreciates the mathematical symmetry of those figures <g>). Anyway, I think most folks would agree, these results would represent "significant profit" for somebody who invested in the past 4 years -- depending on the specific date that they bought in, of course. The winners?

Columbia Greater China Z LNGZX
Dreyfus Greater China I DPCRX
Fidelity Advisor Emerging Asia FERIX
Fidelity China Region FHKCX
Ivy Pacific Opportunities Y IPOYX
Matthews China MCHFX
Matthews Pacific Tiger MAPTX
T. Rowe Price New Asia PRASX

Yes, all are Pacific/Asia ex-Japan Stock funds. If ever a person wanted to prove a point about the value of portfolio diversification and international investment, this might do it.

But I was still curious (again, dangerous) so I changed the screen to exclude all international stock funds. I still kept domestic stock funds and this time opened it up to all taxable bond funds. To get any results, I had to "lower the bar" of performance -- but even so, all these funds made money. The lower requirements for this screen were:

YTD return >6%
3 year return > 6%
5 year return > 6%

Once again, very symmetrical with the base-6 math. And everybody knows, when it comes to investment returns, six is the new twenty.

Here are the winners, with name, ticker and category listed:

Delaware Diversified Income In DPFFX Intermediate-Term Bond
Dreyfus/Standish Global Fixed SDGIX World Bond
Dreyfus/Standish International SDIFX World Bond
Fidelity Advisor Emerging Mark FMKIX Emerging Markets Bond
Harbor Bond Instl HABDX Intermediate-Term Bond
ING PIMCO Total Return Bond S IPCSX Intermediate-Term Bond
MFS Emerging Markets Debt I MEDIX Emerging Markets Bond
PIMCO Total Return D PTTDX Intermediate-Term Bond
Target Intermediate-Term Bond TAIBX Intermediate-Term Bond
Target Total Return Bond TATBX Intermediate-Term Bond
TCW Emerging Markets Income I TGEIX Emerging Markets Bond
TCW Emerging Markets Income N TGINX Emerging Markets Bond
TCW Total Return Bond I TGLMX Intermediate-Term Bond

I thought bonds would show up in this screen, but I frankly wasn't expecting that they'd be so dominant -- or that the type of bond fund would be so varied. Basically, bond investors around the world seem to have done better than domestic stock investors.

Once again, a lesson in the value of diversification. I am glad to say I'm smart enough to have had positions in at least one fund from each of these two lists. But I am sad to say that those funds did not represent a big overweight in any portfolio! Maybe this is a lesson in the importance of really committing to a good idea.

TMF's new fund only needs to make 2 or 3% to be like all the other funds in the world.

Actually, I think most stock funds this year, no matter where they are, will probably do a lot better than that -- if for no other reason than that they started at such a low point. And besides the mainstream indexes, we can see that it should be possible to make more than 2% or 3% if one looks in categories other than domestic stocks.

And now that I think about it, this is pertinent to that Motley Fool fund, because they say they'll go wherever they have to (around the world) to get the best stocks. There's no guarantee that they'll be smarter than other global fund managers, but the fact that they're free to invest outside the U.S. at least gives them some leeway.

Might be a good place for ROTH IRA money if you are in that bracket, but even a CD will get you 2-3% without the risk.

I haven't shopped around while writing this message, but standing at my local bank branch the other day I saw signs for CDs that topped out at around 1.7%. Note that the recent 10-year Treasury auction was below 3.5% and that their yield has slipped even more since then.

In short, I'm not certain that one can count on CDs to get even as much return as described above -- and one would have to hope that inflation stays flat. Avoiding risk is one thing, but 2-3% might not be enough to break even by 2011. We're in a new world...

Wrap-up: I started this as a new thread for a reason. We have no way of knowing how this Motley Fool fund would have done in comparison to any of the funds listed above, and for that reason it kinda doesn't even belong in the same discussion.

Mostly I wanted to see if were true that nobody made money in the last 4 years. No, it isn't. The "winners" listed above are fairly conventional funds that even somebody like me can locate and purchase, which means anybody here could do it.

Anyway, the fact that these funds made money means that investors do not have to resort to short-selling, Bear-market funds, or other tricks. Apparently it's just a matter of asset allocation and rotation.

Or timing, one might say... ;-)
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I ran a scan on Morningstar's Premier Funds list (89 stocks). At the bottom are the 3 and 5 year averages. This is supposed to be the cream of the crop in some circles. I may be missing something but I don't see TMF fund beating these results.
Fund Name Category ******************** 3yr return 5yr return Exp Ratio
American Century Tax-Free Bond Inv Muni National Interm 4.07 3.69 0.49
Artisan International Inv Foreign Large Growth -6.8908 2.94 1.22
Artisan Mid Cap Value Mid-Cap Value -3.1891 4.43 1.21
Baron Asset Mid-Cap Growth -8.7861 0.9096 1.33
Baron Small Cap Small Growth -6.9911 0.1465 1.32
Berwyn Small Value -9.2807 -1.3346 1.33
Berwyn Income Conservative Allocation 5.06 5.2 0.76
Buffalo Mid Cap Mid-Cap Growth -4.5647 0.7154 1.01
Cohen & Steers Realty Shares Real Estate -17.0906 -0.6734 1
Delafield Mid-Cap Value -4.8226 1.69 1.49
Dodge & Cox Income Intermediate-Term Bond 5.77 4.64 0.43
Dodge & Cox International Stock Foreign Large Value -7.3368 4.46 0.64
Dodge & Cox Stock Large Value -12.7405 -2.8241 0.52
FAM Value Inv Mid-Cap Blend -7.4977 -1.7349 1.4
Fidelity Capital & Income High Yield Bond 0.5859 4.41 0.75
Fidelity Intermediate Municipal Income Muni National Interm 4.32 3.99 0.42
Fidelity Latin America Latin America Stock 5.1 23.6 1.02
Fidelity Municipal Income Muni National Long 3.1 3.76 0.47
Fidelity Select Energy Natural Res -8.6402 9.39 0.83
Fidelity Short-Intermediate Muni Income Muni National Short 4.42 3.39 0.49
Fidelity Short-Term Bond Short-Term Bond 1.42 1.88 0.45
Fidelity Spartan Total Market Index Inv Large Blend -8.1672 -1.6416 0.1
Forward International Small Co Inv Foreign Small/Mid Growth -10.9443 2.96 1.65
Forward Small Cap Equity Small Growth -11.1358 -2.1147 1.65
Harbor Bond Instl Intermediate-Term Bond 7.88 6.05 0.6
Harbor International Growth Inv Foreign Large Growth -6.7445 2.78 1.27
Harding Loevner Emerging Markets Diversified Emerging Mkts 1.21 13.94 1.61
Janus Short-Term Bond Short-Term Bond 5.69 4.25 0.65
Jensen J Large Growth -3.572 -1.8404 0.85
Mairs & Power Balanced Inv Moderate Allocation -3.2282 1.11 0.8
Marsico Focus Large Growth -8.4373 -1.1287 1.22
Matthews Asian Growth & Income Pacific/Asia ex-Japan Stk 4.26 10.43 1.16
Matthews Japan Japan Stock -14.7765 -6.6289 1.23
Matthews Pacific Tiger Pacific/Asia ex-Japan Stk 6.6 13.87 1.12
Metropolitan West Total Return Bond M Intermediate-Term Bond 5.47 5 0.65
Neuberger Berman Mid Cap Growth Inv Mid-Cap Growth -6.2695 1.6 1.03
Neuberger Berman Socially Resp Inv Large Blend -6.8789 -0.426 0.9
Northern Small Cap Value Small Value -10.4778 -0.6764 1
Oakmark Global I World Stock -5.3965 2.54 1.16
Oakmark International I Foreign Large Value -6.5451 3.58 1.1
Oakmark International Small Cap I Foreign Small/Mid Value -8.7222 3.82 1.41
Perkins Mid Cap Value Investor Mid-Cap Value -2.2719 3.17 1.07
PIMCO Commodity Real Ret Strat D Natural Res -8.2503 -0.3026 1.24
PIMCO High Yield D High Yield Bond -0.3186 2.77 0.9
Royce Micro-Cap Invt Small Blend -5.6486 2.64 1.69
Royce Total Return Invt Small Value -7.5618 -0.0618 1.19
Selected American Shares S Large Blend -9.2704 -1.8494 0.92
Sound Shore Large Value -6.7343 -0.6922 0.92
SSgA Emerging Markets Diversified Emerging Mkts -0.7202 13.25 1.26
T. Rowe Price Blue Chip Growth Large Growth -5.7013 -1.3972 0.8
T. Rowe Price Capital Appreciation Moderate Allocation -1.1584 3.13 0.74
T. Rowe Price Corporate Income Long-Term Bond 3.24 3.39 0.75
T. Rowe Price Emerging Markets Stock Diversified Emerging Mkts 0.5714 13.07 1.24
T. Rowe Price European Stock Europe Stock -5.0342 3.16 1.01
T. Rowe Price High-Yield High Yield Bond 1.59 3.82 0.76
T. Rowe Price International Discovery Foreign Small/Mid Growth -5.0308 6.37 1.24
T. Rowe Price Japan Japan Stock -15.2024 -4.2677 1.07
T. Rowe Price Latin America Latin America Stock 8.05 26.78 1.22
T. Rowe Price New Asia Pacific/Asia ex-Japan Stk 9.94 16.57 0.96
T. Rowe Price New Era Natural Res -5.2162 8.53 0.66
T. Rowe Price Personal Strat Income Conservative Allocation 0.4068 3.03 0.66
T. Rowe Price Real Estate Real Estate -19.1339 -2.3438 0.75
T. Rowe Price Short-Term Bond Short-Term Bond 5.14 3.93 0.55
T. Rowe Price Value Large Value -8.8426 -1.3816 0.9
Third Avenue International Value Foreign Small/Mid Value -7.1878 4.02 1.48
Third Avenue Real Estate Value Global Real Estate -12.2112 0.0992 1.12
Turner Midcap Growth Investor Mid-Cap Growth -9.5956 -1.4351 1.18
UMB Scout International Foreign Large Blend -3.6524 5.16 0.96
USAA International Foreign Large Growth -5.7026 3.54 1.14
USAA Tax Exempt Long-Term Muni National Long 1.11 2.6 0.48
USAA Tax Exempt Short-Term Muni National Short 3.64 3.09 0.55
Vanguard Emerging Mkts Stock Idx Diversified Emerging Mkts 2.36 14.02 0.39
Vanguard European Stock Index Europe Stock -8.0678 2.47 0.29
Vanguard High-Yield Tax-Exempt Muni National Interm 1.86 3.11 0.2
Vanguard International Value Foreign Large Value -6.445 4.28 0.47
Vanguard LifeStrategy Income Conservative Allocation 1.89 2.94 0.22
Vanguard LifeStrategy Moderate Growth Moderate Allocation -3.2784 1.15 0.22
Vanguard Long-Term Investment-Grade Long-Term Bond 4.84 4.61 0.28
Vanguard Long-Term Tax-Exempt Muni National Long 3.19 3.59 0.2
Vanguard Ltd-Term Tax-Ex Muni National Short 4.19 3.28 0.2
Vanguard Mid Capitalization Index Mid-Cap Blend -10.0923 -0.3286 0.27
Vanguard Short-Term Bond Index Short-Term Bond 6.06 4.36 0.22
Vanguard Short-Term Investment-Grade Short-Term Bond 4.16 3.58 0.26
Vanguard Small Cap Growth Index Small Growth -7.5088 -0.3302 0.28
Vanguard Small Cap Index Small Blend -9.1026 -0.8124 0.28
Vanguard Tax-Managed Intl Foreign Large Blend -7.5667 2.55 0.2
Vanguard Tax-Managed Small Cap Inv Small Blend -9.3532 -0.7904 0.19
Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Intermediate-Term Bond 6.48 4.97 0.22
Westport R Mid-Cap Blend -2.2199 3.89 1.37
AVERAGE -3.19 3.43 0.84
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Simplest things first, for anybody interested -- this board allows you to post table data with columns intact by putting the text PRE before it (within angle brackets <>) followed by /PRE also within brackets. (I didn't put the brackets on here, because it would turn into code and become invisible.) Below, I'll use that code so you can see the effect:

Fund Name Ticker Some Number
BlahBlah BLAHX 110%
Yadayada YADAX 115%

You can't see the code now but it "preformatted" the text by keeping it in table form, so the numbers don't all run together. Now you know (and others who may be reading). It frees a person from having to post the entire message as a table, which the Fool also offers as an option. That means this text can flow normally.

I ran a scan on Morningstar's Premier Funds list (89 stocks). At the bottom are the 3 and 5 year averages. This is supposed to be the cream of the crop in some circles. I may be missing something but I don't see TMF fund beating these results.

Not sure why you started with the M* "Premier Funds" rather than just using the entire universe of funds in existence. M* often has dogs in that list and culls them from time to time. I don't really care about the average performance of that list -- it's a hodgepodge of styles and sizes and asset classes and doesn't really represent any kind of target that an investor would aim for, I don't think.

Like, within that list I see numerous funds that have lost money on both a 3-year and 5-year basis, a fair number of index funds, and so on. No offense, but it seems to me that an average of all those funds creates a sort of meaningless datapoint.

Put another way -- among other things, that list includes a whole bunch of bond funds. This Motley Fool thing is a stock-only fund. What happened to the whole apples-to-apples idea?

But that's also missing the point of this new thread. It's not about that fund, so let's leave all the cynicism for the original thread. I wanted to find out what has worked best in the four-year span you cited, and from that, start a different discussion about what strategies might be fruitful going forward.
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