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Rating:Nations Funds Wins Bragging Rights Not Rated 4.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Friday, January 17, 2003

Nations Funds Wins Bragging Rights

by: Sean Hanna, Editor in Chief

A money market fund is now the nation's largest mutual fund -- call it a sign of the times. Even more a sign is a brewing dispute between Vanguard and Lipper of just how big the Vanguard's flagship fund really is.

What is undisputed in the final industry rankings for 2002 is that Nations Cash Reserves fund (sponsored by Bank of America) is the largest Forty Act fund with $76.6 billion in assets. Since money market funds are boring don't expect to see that fund's manager follow the lead of Bill Gross and Gus Sauter and appear on CNBC anytime soon (full disclosure: we don't even know who the manager at Nation's Funds is he is).

For that matter, whether it is Bill or Gus who is the manager of the nation's second largest fund is a matter of dispute.

Vanguard's 500 Index ended 2002 with either $56.2 billion or $68.1 billion in assets depending on whether you believe Lipper or Vanguard itself. Lipper, you see, chooses to count $11.9 billion of assets in Admiral Shares as a separate fund. Vanguard, on the other hand, contends that the Admiral Shares should be counted as part of the larger fund. In this case, we agree with Vanguard. Most funds now sport multiple share classes based on distribution strategies rather than investment strategies and for true benchmarking those share classes should be counted together.

That would put Pimco's Total Return fund in third place. The fund ended 2002 with $67.8 billion in assets under management.

That leaves Fidelity Magellan in in the strange position of looking up from fourth place with $56.8 billion of assets. This is the lowest Magellan has ranked since what seems like the Paleolithic era. The last time assets in the Fidelity fund were this low was in May 1997 when they hit $56.3 billion in assets. At its height, the fund held $109.8 billion and at year-end 2001 it held $79.5 billion in assets.  

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