By and large, the disclaimer turned out to be true. Still, there were notable exceptions. Past performance is more predictive for funds that invest in large-company stocks. That's because these funds tend to have larger asset bases and thus lower expenses, says Morningstar analyst Jeff Ptak. Value-oriented funds are also more likely to stay on top. They buy and hold securities for long periods of time, reducing overall volatility and providing more consistent returns. Leaf Peepers rejoice: The late-summer wetness won't dull the palette as America's trees reach their peak autumn colors in the next few weeks, according to researchers at Pennsylvania State University. Go to the U.S. Agriculture Dept.'s Forest Service Web site (www.fs.fed.us), or call the toll-free hotline (800 354-4595) to check on the progress of fall colors in your region. The Foliage Network's updated maps also help you monitor peak conditions nationwide (foliagenetwork.com).
Where The Leaves Are
Looking for grownup sweets this Halloween? Inspired by horror flicks, candymaker Ethel M. Chocolates is offering collections of spooky chocolates at ethelm.com or 800 438-4356. The 22-oz. I Walked With a Zombie box for $32 stars such confections as brown spiders, orange pumpkins, and green letters that spell "Boo." If novelty candy scares you, try the more traditional one-pound The Body Snatcher box of assorted chocolates for $28, which includes Ethel M's signature Almond Butter Crisps and Satin Cremes. Both box covers feature classic RKO Pictures movie posters. Ethel M. Chocolates, based near the Las Vegas strip in Henderson, Nev., is the premium candy division of Mars Inc. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. That's the disclaimer slapped on every mutual-fund advertisement and prospectus. Yet implicit in every ad is a suggestion that, yes, these great performances will continue. And investors flock to top-performing funds. Still, the question lingers: Can past performance predict future returns? Analysts at mutual-fund tracker Morningstar examined the results of nine different U.S. diversified equity fund categories from 1992 through 2001, looking at one-, three-, and five-year returns. Each fund was stacked up against its peers in its category to gauge relative performance.