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Peruse the list of winning fund types for 1999 and it looks like Santa's got a brand new bag.

Since the mid-1990s fund investors have been delightfully rewarded for investing in S & P 500 Index Funds. Year-after-year, these passively managed mirror funds have outperformed actively managed ones. From Dec. 12, 1994 through Dec. 16, 1999, for example, their average annual total return was a sweet 27.29 percent, according to Lipper, Inc.. That's well ahead of the 21.42 percent average annual return on the average U.S. Diversified Equity Fund.

But that's the longish view. Look at whose on top as this year winds to a close and it's the average stock fund. Up 19.47 percent thus far, that beats the performance of the average S & P 500 Index Fund by more than 337 basis points. Or, well over three full percentage points.

Take a tighter view checking out fourth quarter returns only, and from Sept. 30 through Dec. 16, S & P 500 Index Funds were ahead 10.75 percent while the average stock fund gained 12.65 percent.

"Nineteen-ninety-nine was the year that most equity funds beat the S & P 500," said A. Michael Lipper, chairman of Lipper, Inc., during his annual year-end news conference in New York earlier this month.

It was also a year in which the average World Equity Fund returned nearly twice as much in total returns as the average stock fund, 38.97 percent vs. 19.47 percent respectively; Mid-Cap Growth funds were hotter than Large-Cap Growth ones, 57.84 percent vs. 30.33 percent respectively; and Value Funds of any type had a tough go of it.

But if you think those returns are impressive, you ain't heard nothin' yet. According to Lipper, this was also the year in which individual funds had spectacular returns with 11 funds having total returns of over 200 percent; one, over 300 percent; and 16 funds posting losses of 20 percent or more.

Who were some of those big winners and losers? As of Dec. 16, the top five on each side of the pole, begging with the winners were as follows: Nicholas-Applegate Inst. Global Technology Fund, up 400.48 percent; Nevis Fund, ahead 274.29 percent; MAS Funds: Small Cap Growth: Inst., up 269.60 percent; Warburg Pincus Japan Small Co., ahead 261.39 percent; and the Van Wagoner: Emerging Growth Fund, up 260.86 percent.

The raspberry line-up begins with the Profunds: Ult-Short OTC:Investors Fund, it's total return down 75.88 percent; followed by the Pauze: Tombstone Fund, off 74.62 percent; the Potomac: OTC/Short Fund, down 52.17 percent; Rydex:Arktos: Investors Fund, down 49.05 percent; and Fidelity's Select Medical Fund, down 33.88 percent.

Looking at the 25 largest funds, fourth quarter numbers place two Janus funds as headliners: the Janus Twenty Fund, up 30.37 percent between the end of Sept. and Dec. 16, and the Janus Worldwide Fund, up 29.89 percent over the same time period.

Year-to-date performance figures of the 25 biggest funds line-up a little differently. From this point of view, the Fidelity Growth Company Fund takes top billing, ahead 60.22 percent for the year. Next in line the Janus Twenty Fund, up 55.83 percent; followed by the Janus Worldwide Fund, up 50.24 percent; then the Europacific Growth Fund, up 45.38 percent; and, Putnam's Voyager Fund, ahead 41.70 percent.

If you're wondering about Internet related funds, you'll find them included under Lipper's Science & Technology Funds heading. That heading, as you might expect, was this year's hottest fund type. Funds in it had an average total return of 112.89 percent. Well ahead of the second hottest fund type, Japanese Funds, up 97.86 percent this year.Ho. Ho. Ho.

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