Boston-based Financial Research Corporation says several bond groups are attracting strong capital flows in the first three quarters of 2009.

In terms of the specific Morningstar categories, intermediate-term bonds have absorbed $16 billion through September 2009 and now have about $96 billion in assets. Short-term bonds have grown by $8 billion and include $36 billion in AUM.

The muni-national short-term category has had $4 billion in inflows through September 2009 and now has $27 billion in assets. World bonds have drawn $4 billion and stand at $9 billion in AUM, while inflation-protected bonds have grown by $3 billion to $20 billion in assets. And high-yield bonds drew $2 billion in the past nine months and total $21 billion in assets.

Diversified emerging-market funds have been popular, growing by $4 billion to total $20 billion. Precious-metal funds have $16.5 billion in assets after attracting $2 billion in the first three quarters of 2009, during which time natural-resource funds had $1 billion in inflows to give them $22 billion in AUM.

Vanguard remains at the top of the charts for its assets under management. Excluding proprietary funds of funds, the group has some $1.1 trillion of AUM as of September 30, 2009. American Funds has $880 billion, while Fidelity has $713 billion. ETF-giant Barclays Global Investors has $353 billion.

The bond shop Pimco is in fifth place with $294 billion, while Franklin Templeton has $268 billion and T. Rowe Price $203 billion, according to FRC.

Other large fund managers include State Street Global Advisors with $177 billion, Oppenheimer with $119 billion and Dodge & Cox with $110 billion.

In terms of where assets have grown in the first three quarters of 2009 and over the past four quarters, Vanguard has increased its assets 28 percent and 10 percent respectively. American Funds’ assets are up 20 percent through September but are down about 5 percent for the past 12 months.

Pimco’s assets have been on a tear; they grew 41 percent in the last three quarters and 34 percent in the last year. Similarly, Barclays has boosted assets 36 percent and 23 percent respectively.

Other groups that have seen assets swell more than 30 percent in the first nine months of 2009 are Dimensional Fund Advisors, Eaton Vance, JP Morgan Asset Management, Janus Capital Group, Natixis Global Associates, Principal Financial Group and T. Rowe Price. Over the four quarters, the fund families that increased assets 20 percent or higher are Barclays, JP Morgan, Natixis and Pimco.

Overall, the largest 25 fund companies now have close to $7.2 trillion in assets under management, up about 3 percent from a year ago. From August 2009 to September 2009, their combined assets grew 5 percent from $6.8 trillion. And since December 2008, they increased 28 percent from $5.6 trillion, FRC says.