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65 places to begin mutual fund research

Start with all 5,174 stock-mutual funds. Slice and dice the list until 65 are left. Publish list.

That's right, it's time for this column's third-annual mutual fund survey. The goal? To help readers sort through the bewildering array of stock funds, by offering a short list that might appeal to folks who make their own investment decisions without the help of a broker.

Nothing complicated here. All I did was take Morningstar Principia Plus, a software program offered by Chicago fund researchers Morningstar Inc., and then run a series of computer screens.

I started by tossing out all funds that charge a sales commission. If you make your own investment decisions, I don't think there's any reason to pay a load. I also threw out all funds with annual expenses greater than 1.4 percent or an investment minimum above $5,000.

Next, I got rid of funds that I don't consider a useful addition to a well-diversified stock portfolio. That meant dispensing with funds that stick with a single industry sector or a single foreign region.

I also eliminated global funds that buy both U.S. and foreign stocks, because it's difficult to know what mix you are getting. Indeed, the only foreign funds I kept were broadly diversified funds that invest exclusively abroad.

Finally, I looked at fund-manager performance. Out went all funds where the average tenure of the managers was less than five years. Also cut were any funds that failed to outperform 60 percent of comparable funds over the past three and five years.

Below, you will find the 65 funds that made the cut. These funds don't come with this column's seal of approval. But I have gotten rid of 98.7 percent of all stock funds, leaving you with a good starting point for further research.

So which funds on the list are worth buying? Hey, you can't expect me to do all the work.

Separating the wheat from the chaff

Large-company stock funds

Babson Value (800)422-2766

BT Investment 500 Index (800)730-1313

Clipper Fund (800)776-5033

Dodge & CoxStock (800)621-3979

Domini Social Equity (800)762-6814

Dreyfus Appreciation (800)373-9387

Dreyfus Disciplined Stock (800)373-9387

Fidelity Fund (800)544-8888

Fidelity Equity-Income (800)544-8888

Fidelity Stock Selector (800)544-8888

Founders Growth (800)525-2440

Harbor Capital Apprec. (800)422-1050

Kent Index Equity (800)633-5368

Northeast Investors Grth. (800)225-6704

Papp America-Abroad (800)421-4004

Preferred Value (800)662-4769

T. Rowe Price Div. Grth. (800)638-5660

T. Rowe Price Equity Index (800)638-5660

Reynolds Blue Chip Grth. (800)773-9665

Scudder Growth & Income (800)225-2470

Sit Large Cap Growth (800)332-5580

Smith Breeden Market Plus (800)221-3138

SSgA Matrix Equity (800)647-7327

Stratton Growth (800)634-5726

Value Line Leveraged Grth. (800)223-0818

Vanguard Grth. & Income (800)662-7447

Vanguard Index 500 (800)662-7447

Vanguard Index Growth (800)662-7447

Vanguard Index Value (800)662-7447

Vanguard/Morgan Growth (800)662-7447

Vanguard Total Stock (800)662-7447

Vanguard U.S. Growth (800)662-7447

Vanguard/Windsor II (800)662-7447

Vintage Equity (800)438-6375

Westcore Blue Chip (800)392-2673

White Oak Growth Stock (888)462-5386

Wilshire Target LgGrth. (888)200-6796

WPG Growth & Income (800)223-3332

Midsize-company funds

Excelsior Value & Restruct. (800)446-1012

Neuberger & Berman Part. (800)877-9700

Nicholas Fund (800)227-5987

Nicholas II (800)227-5987

T. Rowe Price Mid-Cap (800)638-5660

T. Rowe Price NewAmer. (800)638-5660

Sit Mid Cap Growth (800)332-5580

Stein Roe Cap. Opport. (800)338-2550

Strong Schafer Value (800)368-1030

Vanguard/Primecap (800)662-7447

William Blair Growth (800)742-7272

Small-company stock funds

Baron Asset (800)992-2766

Eclipse Equity (800)872-2710

Fasciano Fund (800)848-6050

Managers Special Equity (800)835-3879

Nicholas Limited Edition (800)227-5987

T. Rowe Price Small-Cap (800)638-5660

Safeco Growth No-Load (800)426-6730

Value Line Spec. Situations (800)223-0818

Warburg Pincus Emerg. (800)927-2874

Foreign-stock funds

Fidelity Diversified Int'l (800)544-8888

Oakmark International (800)625-6275

Preferred International (800)662-4769

T. Rowe Price Int'l Stock (800)638-5660

Scudder International (800)225-2470

USAA International (800)382-8722

Vanguard Int'l Growth (800)662-7447

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