By Richard Loth (Contact | Biography)

A mutual fund's total return investment quality is evidenced by relatively consistent positive performance as compared to its peers, its category benchmark and an appropriate broad market index, over five- and 10-year periods, preferably the latter.

Historical comparative data is useful to investors as a reasonable basis, albeit not a guarantee, for forming expectations about future investment results. Using historical patterns is better than depending on guesswork about what's going to happen in the future.

Mutual fund investors would be wrong to completely disregard past fund performance as a predictor of future performance. At the same time, do not base a fund selection entirely on past results or be seduced by eye-popping, extraordinary gains, which may be temporary. There are a number of fund investment qualities to be considered in evaluating a mutual fund investment.

To help readers get a quantitative fix on mutual fund annualized total return numbers, below are the fund category averages as per Morningstar's FundInvestor year-end 2005 fund statistics for its universe of 500 of the most widely traded mutual funds:

Fund Type 5-Year % 10-Year %
Large Cap Growth -3.4 7.0
Large Cap Blend 0.5 8.1
Large Cap Value 4.0 8.9
Mid Cap Growth 0.0 8.5
Mid Cap Blend 8.1 11.7
Mid Cap Value 9.4 11.4
Small Cap Growth 2.2 8.2
Small Cap Blend 9.9 11.2
Small Cap Value 135 2.8
Conservative Allocation 13.7 6.3
Moderate Allocation 2.9 7.4
Foreign Stock 6.8 9.7
High-Quality Bond 4.8 5.2
High-Yield Bond 7.3 5.4

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