If you research mutual funds, you've probably seen Morningstar's mutual fund reports and its five-star rating system. Another research tool gaining attention is Lipper Leaders, introduced by Denver-based Lipper Inc. in 2001. And in this case, big orange checksmarks matter most.
"There is no one-size fund that fits all investors," says Jeff Tjornehoj, a Lipper research analyst. "Many criteria are critical when making an investment decision. We've identified five of them." They include: a fund's total return, consistent return, preservation (of capital), tax efficiency and expense. Funds are assigned scores for each of these criteria. The highest score a fund can receive is a Lipper Leaders orange checkmark, meaning its performance ranks in the top quintile. The second highest score is 2, representing funds scoring in the second quintile; the third best is a 3; and so on, down to 5.
The Lipper Leaders site offers other info, such as how all the funds in one fund family check out. Getting to the data, however, takes some doing. At www.lipperleaders.com, select "United States" from the column on the left side of the home page. Then click on "Find a Fund." You'll get to a page with a "Fund Display" box in the center. Here, you can see which funds get a Lipper Leaders checkmark and which don't-for free.
Dian Vujovich is an author, syndicated columnist and publisher of the fund investing site www.fundfreebies.com.