New York Times Service In turbulent times, stock-fund investors often seek refuge in high-yielding funds.

Yield, after all, can make up for eroding capital in declining markets and prop up total return, which reflects yield as well as changes in principal.But there is one caveat: When you invest for yield, you may miss big gains when the market turns because funds providing high yield forfeit growth potential. And that's what happened in the final quarter of 1990.

In late summer and fall, the equity-income and growth-and-income funds - the highest-yielding stock funds, which invest mainly in stocks paying high dividends - were top performers.

But their leads were eroded when the market rose in November and December, and they finished the year with losses comparable to lower-yielding growth funds.

For investors, the lesson is clear: You pay a price when you rely on yield to protect your investment in down markets.