If ever there was a time for looking back at what might have been, it is now. At this time of the year nostalgia always surfaces. The 'what if' syndrome is particularly strong as we come to the end of the year, the decade and the millennium. For investors, this can be an empty exercise, rather like looking at your Mark Six ticket with all the wrong numbers and dreaming about what you could have done with the millions if the right digits had come up. Fretting about missed opportunities is equally futile, particularly when the winning investment themes seem too obvious with hindsight. Even so, dreams cost nothing and useful lessons can be learned as much from investment actions not taken as they can from mistakes actually made. As a decade, the '90s will go down as one of the most remarkable in stock-market history for the relentless manner in which equities continued to defy the bears. The United States' markets set an amazing record for unbroken gains. Text books will have to be re-written, for even if the pessimists have the last laugh and the profit palace proves a house of cards, the received wisdom on equity action has got to be modified. None of this could have been foreseen a decade ago. When revellers greeted the beginning of this decade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was languishing at below 2,500. The fallout of the Crash of '87 still clouded most of the world's markets. Equities were out of favour until September 1990 when the momentum began. Steady, if unspectacular, progress saw the Dow Jones touch 4,000 in January 1995. A few months of sideways movement and then the bull really began to run in November, and apart from a correction in July last year, has stayed on steroids. Most of the rest of the world's equity markets also displayed gravity-defying performances - with the exception of Japan, where in 1989 the Nikkei-225 was poised for its plunge from 37,000 to 13,400 in September last year, and it is still at half its peak. The big story in the late '80s was how the next decade would be the domain of the emerging markets. Indeed, some markets, then regarded as emerging, did perform strongly, even if it would have taken nerves of steel to hang on through the volatility, but, as a sector, emerging-market funds have proved sluggish performers. In a world now dominated by equity performance, it is surprising to look back and find the best performers in the first year of the decade. Step forward money market and fixed-income vehicles which filled the first 10 places on the podium. So which funds would have been the real winners over 10 years for Hong Kong investors? Why Hong Kong funds, of course. Not outright winners, according to Standard & Poor's Micropal, but four out of the top 10 performers over the 10 years were Hong Kong equity players - led by Dresdner RCM's New Tiger HK with a 735 per cent return. But look at the volatility that went with the performance. The top two places go to today's fashionable sectors: US equity and US technology. Manulife is the top performer with its GF American Growth fund - up 839 per cent - while Invesco's GT Technology gained 759 per cent. In other jurisdictions, where funds not authorised for sale in Hong Kong are marketed, the technology funds were massive outperformers. The individual winner in the US team is Fidelity's Select Electronic Fund, with a 10-year cumulative performance of 1,648 per cent. In Britain, it was Aberdeen Technology, managed by London's Aberdeen Unit Trust Managers, with a total return of 1,648 per cent. Neither would have attracted much attention back in 1989. Fidelity lost 6 per cent for its investors that year, while Aberdeen plunged 30 per cent. Which just proves that in unit-trust investing, it is often the tortoise which gets the chequered flag in the end. Ray Heath is pleased to receive general queries about investing in funds, but cannot offer investment advice or recommendations.