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S&P, Moody's to rate equity funds next year


By next year, there will be at least two new players with familiar old names in the equity mutual fund rating business.

Both Standard & Poor's and Moody's Investors Services plan to offer institutional investors equity fund rating services in 1999, company officials said last week. Both firms already are in the business of rating bond funds.

S&P may be the first of the two to offer a stock fund rating product. Leah Johnson, a spokesperson for S&P, said the firm expects to launch an "in depth" rating system in February. Although the product is in development and the full scope of its rating has not yet been determined, S&P will evaluate the consistency of an equity fund's investment performance and investing style, Johnson said. It also will provide detailed information about portfolio managers, she said.

The ratings system will "go beyond the performance numbers," Johnson said.

She declined to identify the target market for the planned S&P ratings. The company now offers bond fund ratings to mutual fund companies rather than individual investors. Morningstar is a prominent rater of mutual funds servicing individual investors. Lipper Analytical Services also provides performance rankings and other data which has been used by individuals, funds and fund boards of directors.

Moody's will aim its rating system at the institutional market, said Henry Shilling, a vice president at the firm. Moody's product will include both computer software and evaluation by Moody's representatives. The ratings, which the company expects to make available next year, will evaluate fund performance, risk and style consistency, Shilling said