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Article Archive >> Business

Advice from Labib: What Types of Mutual Funds Are Available?

Advice from Labib
What Types of Mutual Funds Are Available?

There are thousands of different mutual funds offered on the market. They range from funds that include a broad variety of investments to funds that invest exclusively in single securities or narrow sectors of the market. With the many different investment styles and objectives, there's bound to be a number of mutual funds that are suited to your investing profile. Each of these funds has expense, risk, and return characteristics. Be sure you understand these characteristics before you invest. There are 15 principal types of funds. We have listed them according to their primary objectives: growth, income, and specialized.
Balanced Funds- seek to obtain the highest return consistent with a low-risk strategy. They hold a mix of common and preferred stocks, bonds and cash reserves. The mix can vary according to current market conditions. Balanced funds usually offer higher yields than pure stock funds. Balanced funds are generally the least risky of growth-oriented mutual funds.
Growth and income funds- attempt to achieve both long-term growth and current income. They invest primarily in high-yield common stock, preferred stock, and convertible debt (bonds) to generate both growth and income. Because they include a mix of investments, these funds are typically less risky than growth funds
Growth funds- seek long-term appreciation by investing in the stocks of established companies that may be poised for growth. These companies typically pay low dividends yet offer the potential for long-term capital appreciation. Some growth funds limit their investments to specific sectors of the economy. Growth funds are generally less risky than aggressive growth funds.
International and global mutual funds- offer diversification into international stock markets. International funds invest only in foreign securities. Global funds, on the other hand, can invest in foreign and U.S. securities. The risks associated with investing on a worldwide basis include differences in regulation of financial data and reporting, currency exchange differences, as well as economic and political systems that may be different that those in the United States.
Aggressive growth funds- sometimes known as "small-cap" funds, seek maximum capital gains. They invest primarily in the stock of smaller, less established companies. Since these companies generally pay little or no dividends, aggressive growth funds rely on capital growth for returns. These funds tend to be the riskiest of growth-oriented mutual funds.
Money market funds- seek current income while maintaining a stable $1.00 per share net asset value by investing in short-term debt securities, including T-bills, certificates of deposit, commercial paper, and other highly liquid and safe securities. They offer modest current income and no potential for capital gains. They generally offer the lowest returns but the most safety of all fund types. Some money market funds also offer tax-free income. Money market funds are neither insured nor guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. Although the fund seeks to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 a share, it is possible to lose money by investing in the fund.
Government securities funds- invest primarily in Treasury and government agency securities. Because they are issued or guaranteed by the U.S. government, they are considered the credit worthiest alternatives available. Government securities offer moderate current income and high safety. Treasury securities are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest. Government agency securities are not considered government obligations and therefore are not backed by the full faith and credit of the government. The principal value of these funds will fluctuate due to changes in interest rates.
Municipal bond funds- seek tax-free income by investing in the bonds of state and local governments. In many cases, it may be wise to consider municipal bond funds issued by your state because they may offer double or even triple tax-free income. In some states you will have to pay income tax if you buy shares of a municipal bond fund that invests in bonds issued by other states. In addition, while some municipal bonds in the fund may not be subject to regular income taxes, they may be subject to federal, state, or local alternative minimum tax. If you sell a tax-free bond fund at a profit, there are capital gains taxes to consider. As with all types of bond funds, the principal value will fluctuate with changes in interest rates.
Corporate bond funds- invest in debt securities issued by corporations. The risk of corporate bond funds may vary depending on the objectives of the fund. Because credit risk is somewhat higher, these funds may offer higher returns than funds specializing in government securities. Principal will fluctuate with changes in interest rates.
High-yield bond funds- seek to maximize current income by investing in lower-quality-high-yielding-corporate bonds. The bonds held by these funds are generally rated BB or lower by rating agencies. They offer the high current yields to compensate for the greater risk of default. Since they are more volatile than and pay higher yields than investment grade bonds, they tend to be suited to investors with a high degree of risk tolerance.
International fixed-income funds- invest in debt securities of foreign governments and corporations, and seek to provide current income. Global bond funds may include U.S. government and corporate bonds. The risks associated with investing on a worldwide basis include differences in regulation of financial data and reporting, currency exchange differences, as well as economic and political systems that may be different than those in the U.S.
Besides growth and income, there are a variety of mutual funds that limit their investments to a particular sector, index, or other specialized investments. Depending on your investment objectives and preference for risk, these funds might be considered additions to a portfolio containing more traditional types of funds.
Index funds- are mutual funds that attempt to match the performance of any of several market indexes. For example, a stock index fund may hold stocks that mirror the S&P 500 or the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Index funds provide broad diversification within a single type of asset class.
Precious metals funds- invest directly in precious metals or in the stocks of companies that mine precious metals. Most of these funds limit their investments to gold and gold bullion or to shares in gold-mining companies. The returns from precious metals funds come primarily from long-term capital appreciation.
Asset allocation funds- are those that give the manager great flexibility in deciding how to invest fund assets. The fund manager can typically invest in all the major investment classes, including stocks, bonds, and money market securities. The weightings of each class may vary dramatically and will reflect the market outlook and expectations of the fund manager.
Sector funds- invest in specific industries or sectors of the economy, such as communications, aerospace and defense, or health care. While they may be diversified within a particular sector, they lack broad diversification. This increases their investment risk. These funds typically seek long-term capital appreciation.
Socially conscious funds- invest exclusively in the securities of socially conscious companies. For example, this type of fund may not invest in companies that cause environmental pollution or that have interests in countries with repressive governments.

Alfred Labib is an Independent Financial Advisor. "Our Goal Is To Help Investors Grow And Preserve Their Wealth Through Discipline And Process." 301-824-4523, www.labibfinancial.com.

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