Hold on tight: Stock mutual funds had considerably more kick in their get-along during the first quarter of 1995 than anyone had expected.
General equity funds jumped an average of 7.16 percent to notch the strongest increase since the final quarter of 1992, according to Lipper Analytical Services. It was not a record, but very good indeed.
All was not equal. The worst-performing funds emphasized Latin America, emerging markets or Japan, while best returns came from those in health/biotechnology, the Standard & Poor's 500 index or financial services.
Buying American paid off. Nearly every domestic fund group rose, while virtually all funds with purely international objectives declined.
"In reality, international investing is much healthier now than it was before, and I believe the emerging markets, Latin America and Southeast Asia, offer excellent opportunities the next five years," counseled A. Michael Lipper, president of fund-tracking firm Lipper Analytical. He urges investors to emphasize long-term objectives such as retirement.
Numerous types of portfolios benefited from holding technology-related stocks even if it wasn't their emphasis. Shares of AVECOR Cardiovascular Inc., Security Dynamics Technology and Canada's Plaintree Systems shot out the lights for top-ranked Perkins Opportunity Fund, up 21.49 percent in the quarter.
"We look for stock of companies undergoing some sort of change, whether new products, new management or a changing industry, that will cause them to grow much faster," explained Daniel Perkins, fund co-manager. "I expect the market to remain strong near-term."
Two top funds -- the Global Asset Management (GAM) Global Fund, which includes U.S. stocks, and the GAM International Fund, which holds strictly foreign equities -- prospered because their overseas investments didn't include Latin America, Japan or Southeast Asia.
"We avoided the trouble spots and, right now, our portfolio is about 60 percent in bonds with an emphasis on the debt of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France," said David Anderson, managing director of Global Asset Management U.S.A. Seismic data gatherer Seitel Inc., Intel Corp. and Novellus Systems were big gainers for fourth-ranked Retirement Planning Funds of America (RPF) Growth Fund.
"We're not an aggressive fund that buys high price-to-earnings rapid growers, but prefer above-average growers at prices below market multiples," said portfolio manager Graham Tanaka.
Micron Technology, Intel Corp. and Texas Instruments boosted sixth-place Fidelity Select Electronics Fund, which focuses on semiconductors.
"I expect positive earnings trends to continue," said Harry Lange, portfolio manager. "However, it's likely the fund will take a 10 percent to 15 percent dive a couple of times during the year, as it did last year, but do well overall, nonetheless."
According to Lipper, the top performing stock mutual funds in the 1995 first quarter that were open to new investors included:
* Perkins Opportunity Fund, Minneapolis; $12 million in assets; 4.75 percent "load" (initial sales charge); $2,500 minimum initial investment; up 21.49 percent.
* GAM Global Fund, New York; $18 million; 5 percent load; $10,000 minimum; up 20.90 percent.
* American Investors Pension Trust: Yorktown Value Fund, Lynchburg, Va.; $5.9 million; 2 percent load; $500 minimum; up 20.62 percent.
* RPF Growth Fund, Class A, Santa Fe, N.M.; $54 million; 4.75 percent load; $1,000 minimum; up 20.25 percent. (Class B shares with declining redemption charge were up 19.97 percent.)
* Fidelity Select Air Transportation Fund, Boston; $31 million; 3 percent load; $2,500 minimum; up 19.31 percent.
* Fidelity Select Electronics Fund, Boston; $431 million; 3 percent load; $2,500 minimum; up 18.12 percent.
* GAM International, New York; $200 million; 5 percent load; $10,000 minimum; up 17.54 percent.
* Govett Smaller Companies Fund, San Francisco; $172 million; 4.95 percent load; $500 minimum; up 15.63 percent.
* Cappiello/Rushmore Emerging Growth Fund, Baltimore; $42 million; no load; $2,500 minimum; up 14.94 percent.
* Robertson Stephens Value Plus Growth Fund, San Francisco; $380 million; no load; $5,000 minimum; up 14.92 percent.