You can run, but you can't hide.
The nation's mutual funds have provided few safe hiding places for shellshocked investors in volatile 1990. Stock funds declined an average of 13 percent in the first three quarters of the year. Taxable bond funds, meanwhile, skidded 8 percent.
Biggest winners have been funds investing in the currencies, money markets and bonds of foreign countries. Among stock funds, only those specializing in health care and biotechnology really prospered.
"We could see a decline coming in market returns, sort of a payback for two strong years, and we probably haven't seen the full extent of it yet," observed A. Michael Lipper, president of Lipper Analytical Services, which tracks the nation's funds. "However, I also believe that we could see a sharp 6 to 8 percent rally along the way."
A weak U.S. economy and dollar, coupled with high interest rates overseas, gave a solid boost to currency funds that is likely to continue through year-end.
"The United Kingdom has been keeping interest rates high and its decision to move into the European Monetary System is positive, while Germany also offers a lot of promise," said Patti Thorp, foreign exchange trader with Fidelity Sterling Performance Portfolio L.P., up 28 percent, and Fidelity Deutchemark Performance Portfolio L.P., up 13.53 percent. "These funds attract either an investor seeking to diversify or a short-term trader, and he must be willing to accept the risk of 1 to 5 percent moves in any one day."
Here, according to Lipper, are the top-performing mutual funds the first nine months of 1990:
* Fidelity Sterling Performance Portfolio L.P., Fidelity Investments, Boston; $4.7 million in assets; $5,000 minimum initial purchase; 4 percent "load" (initial sales charge); up 28 percent.
* Fidelity Select: Biotechnology; $171 million assets; $1,000 minimum; 2 percent load, 1 percent redemption charge; up 23.69 percent.
* Fidelity Select: Energy Services; $126 million assets; $1,000 minimum; 2 percent load, 1 percent redemption charge; up 18.77 percent.
* First Australia: Income Fund, EquitiLink USA, New York; $3.7 million assets; $1,000 minimum; 4.75 percent load; up 16.47 percent.
* International Cash: High Income Currency, Huntington Investments, Pasadena, Calif.; $32 million assets; $2,500 minimum; 2.25 percent load; up 16.32 percent.
* Kemper Global Income Fund, Kemper Financial Services, Chicago; $32 million assets; $1,000 minimum; 4.5 percent load; up 15.39 percent.
* First Australia: Liquidity Fund, EquitiLink USA; $10 million assets; $1,000 minimum; 3 percent load; up 15.03 percent.
* International Cash: Hard Currency, Huntington Investments; $36 million assets; $2,500 minimum; 2.25 percent load; up 14.02 percent.
* Fidelity Deutchemark Performance Portfolio L.P.; $10 million assets; $5,000 minimum; 4 percent load; up 13.53 percent.
* PaineWebber Master Global Income Fund, PaineWebber Inc.; $1.3 billion assets; $1,000 minimum; no load, but redemption fees of 5 percent the first year declining to 1 percent the sixth year; up 13.26 percent.