U.S. stock exchanges represent roughly half of the investment possibilities -- expressed in dollar volume -- encompassed by the world's 18 major stock markets, but the U.S. markets as a unit ranked only 15 out of 18 in total return between 1970 and 1980.

This information for U.S. investors comes from the new Chicago firm of Kemper-Murray Johnstone International Inc.

"The United States will remain the stabilizing and dominant factor in the world financially for the next several years, but it will never again regain the position it held from 1945 to 1960," says Raymond Johnstone, a senior investment counselor with K-MJI.

K-MJI is a combination of Murray Johnstone Ltd., a Scottish investment firm established in 1907, and Kemper Financial Services Inc. of Chicago. It was founded early this year to manage the investments of a new mutual fund, the Kemper International Fund (KIF), that will invest in stocks and bonds of non-U.S. companies and provide advisory services concerning international investment opportunities. KIF is one of the newest in a growing number of loaded mutual funds based on the premise that U.S.investors can profit on rapidly expanding overseas stock markets while spreading risks.

A main area of investment emphasis will be the Far East.

"The Pacific Basin is one area which should witness dynamic growth in the next several years," predicts Johnstone. "The enormously rapid growth of Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and of Singapore, world's largest producer of tin and rubber, will generate tremendous investment opportunities as the standard of living in these areas skyrockets. Australia also shows promise, as exploration and discovery of vital metals and minerals increases."

The current underwriting will be in effect until Thursday. Shares of KIF range in price from $12.49 a share to $13.50 a share, depending on quantity, with a minimum purchase requirement of 100 shares. The Washington representative for the Kemper International Fund is Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc.

"There's a great deal of interest in international investing these days," Johnstone says. "The funds overseas have outperformed domestic issues in the last several years fairly consistently."