If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the mutual-fund industry was handing out more compliments than Al Gore at a DNC fundraiser in 1997. With more than 8,000 funds now in existence, investors may justifiably feel inundated, but fund-industry execs and marketing mavens keep rolling out more "product." More often than not, these "new" funds are merely rehashed variations of fund types we've encountered before.
Fortunately, 1997 was light on some of the truly disastrous trends of years past, such as option-enhanced funds, government ARM funds, and derivatives-laden bond funds. The year did see its share of loopy entrants into the fund universe, though. Homestate announced plans to open a Year 2000 fund, which would invest in companies that stand to benefit from the so-called Year 2000 bug, apparently bringing planned obsolescence to the fund business. A London-based firm launched a closed-end Russian small-cap fund, enticing all those hale investors who have found Southeast Asia a bit too staid for their tastes. And Kaminski Poland Fund now offers unusual single-country access via an open-end fund