In the world of equity funds, the ultra-short and short funds are still topping the charts, according to Lipper data.

The top funds have produced returns of between 50 percent and 128 percent in the 52-week period ending March 12. On a year-to-date basis, some of the top funds have improved from 34.5 percent to as much as 65 percent.

As for the largest mutual funds, Pimco’s Total Return Fund-institutional shares have risen nearly 2 percent in the past year, but are down about 0.5 percent in the first 10 weeks of the year. Most of the largest equity-focused funds are down about 15 percent in early 2009 and about 40 percent for the past 52 weeks.

Lipper’s latest research also shows that returns on tax-exempt funds in 2009 are producing positive returns that average about 4.1 percent. For the past 52 weeks, though, the funds are down an average of 2.9 percent.

Many municipal bond funds, including some Eaton Vance, Oppenheimer and Nuveen products, have posted positive returns of between 9 percent and 15 percent so far this year. In the past 52 weeks through March 12, the top tax-exempt bonds have produced gains of between 4 percent and 5.6 percent, while the under-performers have fallen as much as 40 percent.

In the taxable fixed-income field, returns in 2009 through March 12 are up for top funds within a range of roughly 5 percent to 9 percent. This includes funds offered by Eaton Vance, Pioneer, Hartford, John Hancock, Putnam, Franklin Templeton, MFS, RiverSource and others. Over the past 52 weeks, the top funds have delivered returns of between 7.7 percent and 23.5 percent.

Janet Levaux, MBA/MA, is the managing editor of Research; reach her at jlevaux@researchmag.com.