Every year around this time, United Mutual Fund Selector projects the likely economic scenario and recommends mutual funds to best capitalize on it. This year U.M.F.S. delivers the welcome news that the recession will be history by the beginning of the second half.

"In fact, we expect enough strength to return to leave real gross national product modestly on the plus side for the full year. Some important positives for a brightening scenario include: an accommodating Fed monetary policy which will stimulate renewed growth; increased capital spending; and a solid year-to-year gain in exports."Trying to pick the exact month when business will improve strikes United Mutual Fund Selector as an exercise in futility.

"A more advantageous approach is to establish a course of investment action which will enable you to share in the rewards when a soft business climate gives way to a gradual return of strength."

To that end, U.M.F.S. has picked nine specific mutual funds it believes have the potential to outperform, not just during 1991, but throughout the entire new decade. Its buy list includes two current favorites from each of its fund categories: aggressive growth, quality growth, growth and income, and fixed income. In addition, U.M.F.S. has added a special "wild card" fund to its picks.

Aggressive growth: Alliance Quasar requires patience, says U.M.F.S., because management often invests in out-of-favor stocks. "But this con-trarian approach produced a 172.2 percent appreciation from 1985 through 1989, vs. 149.7 percent for the S&P 500." Stein Roe Special is United's other aggressive growth choice. "The portfolio includes a blend of seasoned, large companies and new, small ones. A relatively modest expense ratio and no-load status provide cost efficiency."

Quality growth: Twentieth Century Select has kept pace with the overall market the past five years, and actually outperformed it in 1990. "The fund stays fully invested at all times and has no minimum initial purchase requirement." Founders Growth impresses U.M.F.S. not only with its record of steady gains but also by its 25 percent cash position, "which will allow it to take advantage of bargain stock prices."

Growth and income: Burnham Fund, says U.M.F.S., has regularly outperformed the S&P and switches back between growth and income stocks depending on market conditions. Putnam Growth & Income "has bettered the Selectors Mixed Objective Average by over 15 percent since 1985."

Fixed income: Value Line U.S. Government emphasizes safety by investing at least 80 percent of assets in U.S. government and related agency issues. "And its expense ratio has actually fallen during the '80s." Wellesley Income balances 60 percent bonds with 40 percent stocks to provide "consistent high income and appreciation," says U.M. F.S.

United's "wild card" selection, finally, is Janus Fund. "Janus has a record of superior long-term performance. It employs an aggressive investment strategy which sometimes produces 200 percent annual portfolio turnover. Janus has increased foreign securities to 22 percent of assets. We feel it offers an unusual opportunity."

(United Mutual Fund Selector, 101 Prescott St., Wellesley, Mass. 02181; semimonthly, $125 annually.)

Investor's Notebook reflects the opinions of professionals. It does not endorse specific investments, and no endorsement is implied or should be inferred. For more information, contact the individual firms cited.