When you get an account statement from your mutual fund or broker, you find out how much you made or lost but not how the fund fared against its peers. How can you tell if it's a gem or a clunker?
Easy: Just look it up on BusinessWeek's Mutual Fund Scoreboard (bwnt.businessweek.com/mutual_fund/). You can find a fund by typing in its name or symbol in the box at the top of the page. Not sure exactly which one you want? Type in the fund family, such as Oakmark.
Now you have six Oakmark stock funds. Moving across the screen, you get a trove of data. The ratings, Overall and Category, come first, then assets, sales charges, expenses, pretax returns, turnover, cash, and the fund's risk level. Note the Oakmark Equity & Income Fund I (OAKBX): It has a high turnover (suggestive of frequent trading) yet a very low risk profile.
Want to drill down further? Click on the fund's name, and a pop-up box appears. Included are the fund's 10 largest holdings, its best and worst quarters of the last five years, and its aftertax returns. Need more? There's a link to Oakmark's Web site, where you can read fund reports, manager commentaries, and even download investment applications.
The Scoreboard lets you scan the entire fund universe or sort the funds by 50 individual equity and bond fund categories. Select Utilities funds, and you'll get data on 28 utilities funds in the Scoreboard. The initial sort is alphabetical, but by clicking on the headers, such as expense ratio or 10-year return, you can rearrange the layout by whatever criteria you like, such as funds with the lowest expenses or highest returns.
You'll get the hang of it in no time. Once you do, you'll probably want to come back once a month for an update.
By Lauren Young