Aided by strong results in the energy and financial services sectors, funds that invest in Canadian stocks had a solid month in September and ended the quarter among the best performers, according to preliminary performance data released Tuesday by Toronto-based Morningstar Research Inc.

Twenty-nine of the 44 fund indices increased during the third quarter, including 11 indices that increased by 2.0% or more, while five of the 15 fund indices with negative results were down by 1.0% or more.

The best-performing fund index for the third quarter was the one that tracks the Greater China equity category, which increased 8.1%. This fund category has dominated the Canadian marketplace since the beginning of the year, including chart-topping performances in July and August, but its September result was a middling 0.5%.

Three sector-specific fund categories were among the top performers. Energy equity fund index had the second-best result for the quarter with a 6.8% increase, which included a 10.3% increase in September that was the best among all categories for the month. Natural resources equity and financial services equity fund indices followed with increases of 4.1% and 3.9%, respectively, for the quarter and were ranked third and second for the month of September, up 3.1% and 4.9%, respectively.

The Canadian equity fund index, which has struggled so far in 2017, increased 3.1% for the month and 3.0% for the quarter, while the Canadian dividend and income equity and Canadian focused equity fund indices were up 2.6% and 2.5% for the month, and 2.3% and 1.7% for the quarter, respectively.

The U.S. equity fund index increased 2.1% for the month, matching the S&P 500 index's total return. For the quarter, the fund index underperformed with a 1.1% increase, compared to a 4.5% total return for the benchmark, owing to a significant appreciation of the Canadian dollar against its U.S. counterpart in July. Currency effects were minimal in August and September, Morningstar Research says.

Only four fund indices representing equity categories were in the red for the quarter. The global infrastructure equity fund index was down 0.5% for the three-month period, while real estate equity was down 0.9%. The other two losing fund indices were U.S. small/mid cap equity and global small/mid cap equity, which decreased 0.3% and 1.1%, respectively.

The biggest losers in the third quarter were fixed-income fund categories, with four of eight fund indices ending the period in negative territory. The fund indices that track the Canadian fixed income, Canadian inflation-protected fixed income, and Canadian long term fixed income categories decreased 1.8%, 3.2%, and 4.3%, respectively. The best-performing fund indices within the fixed-income asset class were preferred share fixed income, up 2.0%, and high yield fixed income, up 0.8%.

Morningstar's preliminary fund performance figures are based on change in funds' net asset values per share during the month, and do not necessarily include end-of-month income distributions. Final performance figures will be published next week.

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