HONGKONG'S dominance of the Hongkong Investment Fund industry best-performing sectors came to an end in April as the sector fell to fifth place, its lowest ranking in almost 18 months. Asian sectors maintained their dominance, however, taking all of the top 10 rankings including Japanese equities and yen funds. The best performing sector over the 12 months to the end of April was Malaysia, up 47.65 per cent by median return. The median return is the half-way industry performance benchmark beaten by exactly half of the funds managed in the sector. Thai equity funds came in second with 44.46 per cent and Japanese funds returned 35.85 per cent, placing them third. Asian regional funds, excluding Japanese equities, rose 31.62 per cent while Hongkong equity funds returned 30.87 per cent over the period. Jardine Fleming dominated the top slots, taking first, second and third. They were respectively the JF Far Eastern warrants, up 111.8 per cent, JF Japan over-the-counter stocks, up 77.33 per cent, and JF Eastern smaller companies up 71.21 per cent. In fourth place came the Prudential Japanese equity fund, up 68.44 per cent, and fifth was the Barclays Asian Select Fund Southeast Asia equity fund, up 60.54 per cent. Association chairman Mark White said: ''The remarkable performance in the Asian sectors is attributable to the strong economies in the region. ''We are delighted to see such a wide range of positive returns for Hongkong investors.'' The association has 38 member fund management companies with US$16 billion under management, representing more than 80 per cent of the total number of funds authorised for retail promotion in Hongkong. The buoyant performance recorded in the unit trust and mutual fund industry has stirred new retail investor investment activity during the first quarter. In the first three months of this year, the association recorded total sales of $514.4 million, the second highest total since 1989, when the association, formerly the Hongkong Unit Trust Association, first started collecting the figures. Total redemptions in the first quarter were $448 million, which took the net sales position of the industry to $65.7 million.