International stock mutual funds seemed to have successfully put 2008's market disaster behind them. In the Monday edition of the Wall Street Journal Fund Track, Sam Mamudi notes that international equity funds were the top performers
of 2009, even as domestic stock soared alongside them, primarily thanks to emerging markets investing in countries like China, Brazil and Russia.
Mamudi points to data from Morningstar showing that
emerging market funds climbed by 72 percent in 2009.
The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF
, up 68 percent through December 29, was the biggest winner among the list of the 25 largest international funds, according to Lipper data. The top actively-managed fund was the Dodge & Cox International Stock Fund
. The fund was up 48 percent, but had less emerging market investments than the iShares fund.
When looking at two top performing funds invested in Asia, again the fund with more emerging market exposure won out. The best-performing China fund, the Oberweis China Opportunities Fund
, was up around 130 percent. Meanwhile, the top-performing Japan-focused fund, the Fidelity Japan Smaller Companies Fund
, was up around 20 percent.
Yet, despite the recent success, the future performance of international stock funds has some analysts worried.
Emerging market funds have a rocky history. For example, the fund type had consecutively positive years between 2003 and 2007, before falling around 55 percent in 2008, according to The Journal.
"Most fund managers think the China and emerging-markets growth stories are still intact for the long-term," Gregg Wolper
, senior fund analyst at Morningstar told The Journal. "But next year's a tough call because of the run-up we've seen this year."
For his part, Christopher Arbuthnot
, co-manager of John Hancock Global Opportunities Fund, said a lot of his holdings are still "well below their prices in mid-2008, and yet their businesses haven't really been affected [by the economic slowdown]."
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