The average return for target maturity funds last quarter came in 3.5 percent under the S&P 500 at nearly 9 percent, but beat the BarCap U.S. Aggregate Bond Index by over 8.5 percent, according to the Ibbotson Target Maturity Report. The first quarter of 2012 was the highest quarter for TDFs since the third quarter of 2010, the report notes.

The report also noted that the first quarter was the second consecutive quarter when all target maturity funds with at least a one-year history ended the period with a positive return. In general, the funds furthest from retirement had the strongest relative performance as equities significantly outperformed fixed income.

Momentum in equities carried through the first quarter from theend of 2011, the report notes. The S&P 500 rose 12.6 percent during the first quarter and non-U.S. equities also improved. Low interest rates helped drive investor interest in equities, but hurt performance in the fixed income sector.

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