31.5pc return in year to March

HONGKONG funds have regained first place in the Hongkong Unit Trust Association monthly performance tables for the 12 months to March 31.

In the 12 months to the end of February, Thai equity funds were the best performing fund sector, with a median return of 49.9 per cent.

This was ahead of Hongkong funds in second place, which had a return of 30.3 per cent.

The median return is the return beaten by exactly half the fund managers in the sector.

Hongkong funds have come back over the 12 months to the end of March, taking the top slot with a return of 31.5 per cent, while Thai equity funds returned 29.2 per cent.

Association chairman Andrew Lo said: ''The Hongkong stock market, because of good economic fundamentals, overall has had a strong performance.

''This is reflected in the remarkable rate of return of Hongkong equity funds over the past year.'' According to the association figures provided by Micropal and Wyatt, Asian fund sectors are on a roll, in general taking the top four slots out of 15 sector rankings.

Yen money-market funds broke into the equity fund top-five pack in fifth place, with a return of 19.3 per cent, reflecting the recent strength of the yen against the US dollar.

Asian funds dominated the top 15 performing sectors, Mr Lo said, with a mix of strong regional economies and promising investment opportunities contributing to the strong performance in regional equities.

The association comprises 37 members and 17 associate members, making up some 80 per cent of the funds authorised in Hongkong for retail promotion and representing total assets of US$16 billion.

Among the top performing individual funds, 12 of the top 15 invest in Asian stocks.

Of the remaining three, one invests in Japanese equities and the other two are in US equities.

The competition is intense, with three fund management houses achieving three separate fund rankings in the top 15 individual fund performance figures.

Thornton came in first, 12th and 14th with funds investing in the Philippines, up 68.3 per cent over the period; Hongkong, up 38.9 per cent, and Malaysia, up 37.7 per cent.

Barclays was in second place and came in equal fourth and 10th with funds investing in ASEAN equities, up 64.8 per cent; Hongkong, up 54.9 per cent and the Philippines, up 39.1 per cent.

Jardine Fleming was third, equal fourth and 11th with funds investing in Asian warrants, up 59.6 per cent; Asian smaller companies, up 54.9 per cent, and US equities, up 39 per cent.

Last month, the association reported total sales in February were running at a record one month net of $55.9 million.

Total sales were $202.4 million compared with total redemptions of $146.5 million.

By sector, Asia-Pacific equity funds accounted for 39.78 per cent of all sales and redemptions and made up $48.4 million of the net sales.

Continued net sales are anticipated into association funds on the back of buoyant stock market activity in Asia.