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Mutual funds more pleasing to the eyes

To prevent your eyes from glazing over when you study mutual fund prospectuses, the documents are becoming easier to read.

Below are examples from the old and new John Hancock Balanced Fund prospectuses:

The old: "This mutual fund utilizes a sophisticated strategy of investing in those types of common stocks which have a long, mostly unbroken record of having increased the dividends paid out to their shareholders in each of the preceding 10 years or, in some cases, more."

The new: "This fund's stocks are exclusively in companies that raised dividends in each of the last 10 years."

Thanks to two recent Securities and Exchange Commission rulings, funds can now sell their wares using a three- to six-page summary rather than the old cumbersome 25-page prospectus.

Don Phillips, president of Morningstar Inc., says, "You can open an account with one "fund family' that invests internationally as well as domestically, in big and small companies, in growth or value. All your paperwork will arrive on a single statement in one envelope."

RANDOM THOUGHTS: "REITS may be coming back into favor with investors, who often flee REITS in uncertain market times. We are also seeing increasing insider accumulation," according to Investment Digest.

"Treasury bonds are in good shape for resuming the upward trend. Slowing of the worldwide economy is being signaled by weakened demand for commodities, and this will weaken demand for borrowing money, driving down rates," the McClellan Market Report reports.