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Fund Spy

A Closer Look at One of 2009's Big Winners

A little research lets you go far beyond the numbers.

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Your conscience should sound a warning if you consider buying a fund simply because you see it on the list of this year's top performers. You can be excused for looking, though. How can you not be curious about funds posting year-to-date returns of more than 100% that don't even have "UltraBull" or "3.5X" in their names?

Because you're going to wonder about these funds anyway, here's a guide to help make those looks worthwhile. With just a little research, you can figure out why a chart-topping fund reaped such gains. More important, you can determine whether the fund is worth considering as a possible addition to your own portfolio or is so inappropriate that it can be struck off your list forever.

Let's examine one offering currently at the top of the rank: Oppenheimer International Small Company (OSMAX).

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Gregg Wolper, Ph.D. does not own shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.