We've been publishing our "Fund Performance Rankings" for more than 20 years. During that span, it has evolved in content, format, and frequency.

The first FPR in February 1991 contained data on only 150 or so no-load stock and bond funds. Over the years, the report grew to include data on about 1,400 no-load and load funds. We also added new risk categories, such as sector and hybrid funds, along the way. The FPR used to be quarterly, now it's monthly.

Changing times raised the question in my mind: "Has the FPR outlived its usefulness?" After all, our Personal Portfolio Tracker tool, which contains performance data on 23,000+ tickers, has the capability to not only track thousands more securities but also to build specific portfolios that include only the funds of personal interest. Additionally, the Morningstar website offers tons of fund data at no charge.

However, after polling our members, it became clear from the FPR's devoted following that the report serves our members in ways the Tracker does not. So, rather than phase out the FPR, we've brought it up-to-date. Here's what you'll find in the December edition:

  • We've overhauled the universe of traditional funds. We’ve removed the load funds (which can be followed in the Tracker for the few who are interested) and emphasized, with a few exceptions, the no-load funds of greatest interest to SMI members on the basis of asset size, brand familiarity, and brokerage availability.
     
  • We've greatly expanded our coverage of ETFs. Given the dramatic growth of these securities, we've given them a more prominent role by including more than 600. We've also given them risk-categories separate from traditional funds, placed immediately following the traditional mutual-fund categories with similar risk profiles.
     
  • We’ve added more detail to the risk-category groupings. The risk categories are groupings of funds which have similar investments, styles, and risk profiles. They allow you to “compare apples to apples” when evaluating a fund’s relative attractiveness. By breaking our universe down into smaller sub-groups (we now have more than 70 risk categories), you can more easily find a fund's immediate peers. See page 3 in the FPR for details.
     
  • We've updated the layout with a fresh design, and more importantly, automated the design process. Now that the programming has been done, we will be able to post the FPR much earlier in the month, typically the day after (or same day) the Tracker goes live. This means the FPR data will be less than two weeks old rather than almost a month.