An investment company that continually offers new shares and stands ready to redeem existing shares from the owners. Because the shares are purchased directly from and are sold directly to the mutual fund, there is no secondary market in these companies' stock. Individual mutual funds vary substantially in terms of the types of investments, their sales charges (many have none), and their management fees. Also called fund
, open-end investment company
. Compare closed-end investment company
. See also clone fund
, family of funds
, load fund
, regulated investment company
Case Study Most research indicates a mutual fund's short-term performance is not an accurate indicator of long-term performance. In other words, it is generally a mistake to choose a mutual fund based on the fund's investment performance during the past quarter or the past year. Even consistent long-term performance may not be a fool-proof guide to selecting a fund. Fidelity's Magellan is considered the outstanding success story among the thousands of mutual funds that have been formed. Peter Lynch, the manager of Magellan for 13 years, became an almost mystical figure among institutional investors before voluntarily stepping down as manager in 1990. A reputation for excellent investment performance over many years caused the fund to grow to the point where, by mid-1996, it had 4.4 million shareholders and managed $56 billion in assets. Jeff Vinik, who took over the fund's reins following the departure of Lynch also produced some excellent results. In early 1996, however, Vinik turned bearish and placed nearly 30% of Magellan's assets in cash and long-term U.S. Treasury bonds. The conservative portfolio caused the fund to underperform in a market that exploded in initial public offerings and technology stocks. In May 1996, Fidelity announced Vinik would be leaving Magellan. His replacement was the manager of one of Fidelity's other mutual funds. Although Vinik apparently erred in becoming too conservative, many market watchers thought the real problem was that Magellan had become so large it was impossible to manage effectively.
A mutual fund is a professionally managed investment product that sells shares to investors and pools the capital it raises to purchase investments.
A fund typically buys a diversified portfolio of stock, bonds, and money market securities, or a combination of stock and bonds, depending on the investment objectives of the fund. Mutual funds may also hold other investments, such as derivatives.
A fund that makes a continuous offering of its shares to the public and will buy any shares an investor wishes to redeem, or sell back, is known as an open-end fund. An open-end fund trades at net asset value (NAV).
The NAV is the value of the fund's portfolio plus money waiting to be invested, minus operating expenses, divided by the number of outstanding shares.
Load funds -- those that charge upfront or back-end sales fees -- are sold through brokers or financial advisers. No-load funds are sold directly to investors by the investment company offering the fund. These funds, which don't charge sales fees, may use 12b-1 fees to pass on the cost of providing shareholder services.
All mutual funds charge management fees, though at different rates, and they may also levy other fees and charges, which are reported as the fund's expense ratio. These costs plus the trading costs, which aren't included in the expense ratio, reduce the return you realize from investing in the fund.
A fund that sells its shares to the public only until sales reach a predetermined level is known as a closed-end fund. The shares of a closed-end fund trade in the marketplace the way common stock does.