Mutual fund

Basics of mutual funds

The article mentioned below, is for the investors who have not yet started investing in mutual funds, but willing to explore the opportunity and also for those who want to clear their basics for what is mutual fund and how best it can serve as an investment tool.

Getting Started
Before we move to explain what is mutual fund, it’s very important to know the area in which mutual funds works, the basic understanding of stocks and bonds.
Stocks
Stocks represent shares of ownership in a public company. Examples of public companies include Reliance, ONGC and Infosys. Stocks are considered to be the most common owned investment traded on the market.
Bonds

Bonds are basically the money which you lend to the government or a company, and in return you can receive interest on your invested amount, which is back over predetermined amounts of time. Bonds are considered to be the most common lending investment traded on the market. 
There are many other types of investments other than stocks and bonds (including annuities, real estate, and precious metals), but the majority of mutual funds invest in stocks and/or bonds.

   
Working of Mutual Fund
   
Regulatory Authorities

To protect the interest of the investors, SEBI formulates policies and regulates the mutual funds. It notified regulations in 1993 (fully revised in 1996) and issues guidelines from time to time. MF either promoted by public or by private sector entities including one promoted by foreign entities is governed by these Regulations. 

SEBI approved Asset Management Company (AMC) manages the funds by making investments in various types of securities. Custodian, registered with SEBI, holds the securities of various schemes of the fund in its custody.

According to SEBI Regulations, two thirds of the directors of Trustee Company or board of trustees must be independent.
The Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI) reassures the investors in units of mutual funds that the mutual funds function within the strict regulatory framework. Its objective is to increase public awareness of the mutual fund industry.

AMFI also is engaged in upgrading professional standards and in promoting best industry practices in diverse areas such as valuation, disclosure, transparency etc.
   

What is a Mutual Fund?

A mutual fund is just the connecting bridge or a financial intermediary that allows a group of investors to pool their money together with a predetermined investment objective. The mutual fund will have a fund manager who is responsible for investing the gathered money into specific securities (stocks or bonds). When you invest in a mutual fund, you are buying units or portions of the mutual fund and thus on investing becomes a shareholder or unit holder of the fund.

Mutual funds are considered as one of the best available investments as compare to others they are very cost efficient and also easy to invest in, thus by pooling money together in a mutual fund, investors can purchase stocks or bonds with much lower trading costs than if they tried to do it on their own. But the biggest advantage to mutual funds is diversification, by minimizing risk & maximizing returns.

   

Diversification

Diversification is nothing but spreading out your money across available or different types of investments. By choosing to diversify respective investment holdings reduces risk tremendously up to certain extent. 

The most basic level of diversification is to buy multiple stocks rather than just one stock. Mutual funds are set up to buy many stocks. Beyond that, you can diversify even more by purchasing different kinds of stocks, then adding bonds, then international, and so on. It could take you weeks to buy all these investments, but if you purchased a few mutual funds you could be done in a few hours because mutual funds automatically diversify in a predetermined category of investments (i.e. - growth companies, emerging or mid size companies, low-grade corporate bonds, etc).

   
Types of Mutual Funds Schemes in India
Wide variety of Mutual Fund Schemes exists to cater to the needs such as financial position, risk tolerance and return expectations etc. thus mutual funds has Variety of flavors, Being a collection of many stocks, an investors can go for picking a mutual fund might be easy. There are over hundreds of mutual funds scheme to choose from. It is easier to think of mutual funds in categories, mentioned below.

Overview of existing schemes existed in mutual fund category: BY STRUCTURE

1. Open - Ended Schemes:

An open-end fund is one that is available for subscription all through the year. These do not have a fixed maturity. Investors can conveniently buy and sell units at Net Asset Value ("NAV") related prices. The key feature of open-end schemes is liquidity.

2. Close - Ended Schemes:

These schemes have a pre-specified maturity period. One can invest directly in the scheme at the time of the initial issue. Depending on the structure of the scheme there are two exit options available to an investor after the initial offer period closes. Investors can transact (buy or sell) the units of the scheme on the stock exchanges where they are listed. The market price at the stock exchanges could vary from the net asset value (NAV) of the scheme on account of demand and supply situation, expectations of unitholder and other market factors. Alternatively some close-ended schemes provide an additional option of selling the units directly to the Mutual Fund through periodic repurchase at the schemes NAV; however one cannot buy units and can only sell units during the liquidity window. SEBI Regulations ensure that at least one of the two exit routes is provided to the investor.

3. Interval Schemes:

Interval Schemes are that scheme, which combines the features of open-ended and close-ended schemes. The units may be traded on the stock exchange or may be open for sale or redemption during pre-determined intervals at NAV related prices.

The risk return trade-off indicates that if investor is willing to take higher risk then correspondingly he can expect higher returns and vise versa if he pertains to lower risk instruments, which would be satisfied by lower returns.  For example, if an investors opt for bank FD, which provide moderate return with minimal risk. But as he moves ahead to invest in capital protected funds and the profit-bonds that give out more return which is slightly higher as compared to the bank deposits but the risk involved also increases in the same proportion.

Thus investors choose mutual funds as their primary means of investing, as Mutual funds provide professional management, diversification, convenience and liquidity. That doesn’t mean mutual fund investments risk free. This is because the money that is pooled in are not invested only in debts funds which are less riskier but are also invested in the stock markets which involves a higher risk but can expect higher returns. Hedge fund involves a very high risk since it is mostly traded in the derivatives market which is considered very volatile.

Overview of existing schemes existed in mutual fund category: BY NATURE

1. Equity fund:
These funds invest a maximum part of their corpus into equities holdings. The structure of the fund may vary different for different schemes and the fund manager’s outlook on different stocks. The Equity Funds are sub-classified depending upon their investment objective, as follows:
  • Diversified Equity Funds
  • Mid-Cap Funds
  • Sector Specific Funds
  • Tax Savings Funds (ELSS)
Equity investments are meant for a longer time horizon, thus Equity funds rank high on the risk-return matrix.

2. Debt funds:

The objective of these Funds is to invest in debt papers. Government authorities, private companies, banks and financial institutions are some of the major issuers of debt papers. By investing in debt instruments, these funds ensure low risk and provide stable income to the investors. Debt funds are further classified as:

  • Gilt Funds: Invest their corpus in securities issued by Government, popularly known as Government of India debt papers. These Funds carry zero Default risk but are associated with Interest Rate risk. These schemes are safer as they invest in papers backed by Government.
  • Income Funds: Invest a major portion into various debt instruments such as bonds, corporate debentures and Government securities.
  • MIPs: Invests maximum of their total corpus in debt instruments while they take minimum exposure in equities. It gets benefit of both equity and debt market. These scheme ranks slightly high on the risk-return matrix when compared with other debt schemes.
  • Short Term Plans (STPs): Meant for investment horizon for three to six months. These funds primarily invest in short term papers like Certificate of Deposits (CDs) and Commercial Papers (CPs). Some portion of the corpus is also invested in corporate debentures.
  • Liquid Funds: Also known as Money Market Schemes, These funds provides easy liquidity and preservation of capital. These schemes invest in short-term instruments like Treasury Bills, inter-bank call money market, CPs and CDs. These funds are meant for short-term cash management of corporate houses and are meant for an investment horizon of 1day to 3 months. These schemes rank low on risk-return matrix and are considered to be the safest amongst all categories of mutual funds.

3. Balanced funds:

As the name suggest they, are a mix of both equity and debt funds. They invest in both equities and fixed income securities, which are in line with pre-defined investment objective of the scheme. These schemes aim to provide investors with the best of both the worlds. Equity part provides growth and the debt part provides stability in returns.
Further the mutual funds can be broadly classified on the basis of investment parameter viz,
Each category of funds is backed by an investment philosophy, which is pre-defined in the objectives of the fund. The investor can align his own investment needs with the funds objective and invest accordingly.

By investment objective:

  • Growth Schemes: Growth Schemes are also known as equity schemes. The aim of these schemes is to provide capital appreciation over medium to long term. These schemes normally invest a major part of their fund in equities and are willing to bear short-term decline in value for possible future appreciation.
  • Income Schemes:Income Schemes are also known as debt schemes. The aim of these schemes is to provide regular and steady income to investors. These schemes generally invest in fixed income securities such as bonds and corporate debentures. Capital appreciation in such schemes may be limited.
  • Balanced Schemes: Balanced Schemes aim to provide both growth and income by periodically distributing a part of the income and capital gains they earn. These schemes invest in both shares and fixed income securities, in the proportion indicated in their offer documents (normally 50:50).
  • Money Market Schemes: Money Market Schemes aim to provide easy liquidity, preservation of capital and moderate income. These schemes generally invest in safer, short-term instruments, such as treasury bills, certificates of deposit, commercial paper and inter-bank call money.

Other schemes

  • Tax Saving Schemes:

Tax-saving schemes offer tax rebates to the investors under tax laws prescribed from time to time. Under Sec.88 of the Income Tax Act, contributions made to any Equity Linked Savings Scheme (ELSS) are eligible for rebate.

  • Index Schemes:

Index schemes attempt to replicate the performance of a particular index such as the BSE Sensex or the NSE 50. The portfolio of these schemes will consist of only those stocks that constitute the index. The percentage of each stock to the total holding will be identical to the stocks index weightage. And hence, the returns from such schemes would be more or less equivalent to those of the Index.

  • Sector Specific Schemes:

These are the funds/schemes which invest in the securities of only those sectors or industries as specified in the offer documents. e.g. Pharmaceuticals, Software, Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), Petroleum stocks, etc. The returns in these funds are dependent on the performance of the respective sectors/industries. While these funds may give higher returns, they are more risky compared to diversified funds. Investors need to keep a watch on the performance of those sectors/industries and must exit at an appropriate time.

   

Types of returns

There are three ways, where the total returns provided by mutual funds can be enjoyed by investors:

  • Income is earned from dividends on stocks and interest on bonds. A fund pays out nearly all income it receives over the year to fund owners in the form of a distribution.
  • If the fund sells securities that have increased in price, the fund has a capital gain. Most funds also pass on these gains to investors in a distribution.
  • If fund holdings increase in price but are not sold by the fund manager, the fund's shares increase in price. You can then sell your mutual fund shares for a profit. Funds will also usually give you a choice either to receive a check for distributions or to reinvest the earnings and get more shares.
   

Pros & cons of investing in mutual funds:

For investments in mutual fund, one must keep in mind about the Pros and cons of investments in mutual fund.

Advantages of Investing Mutual Funds:

1. Professional Management - The basic advantage of funds is that, they are professional managed, by well qualified professional. Investors purchase funds because they do not have the time or the expertise to manage their own portfolio. A mutual fund is considered to be relatively less expensive way to make and monitor their investments.
2. Diversification - Purchasing units in a mutual fund instead of buying individual stocks or bonds, the investors risk is spread out and minimized up to certain extent. The idea behind diversification is to invest in a large number of assets so that a loss in any particular investment is minimized by gains in others.
3. Economies of Scale - Mutual fund buy and sell large amounts of securities at a time, thus help to reducing transaction costs, and help to bring down the average cost of the unit for their investors.
4. Liquidity - Just like an individual stock, mutual fund also allows investors to liquidate their holdings as and when they want.
 
5. Simplicity - Investments in mutual fund is considered to be easy, compare to other available instruments in the market, and the minimum investment is small. Most AMC also have automatic purchase plans whereby as little as Rs. 2000, where SIP start with just Rs.50 per month basis.

Disadvantages of Investing Mutual Funds:

1. Professional Management- Some funds doesn’t perform in neither the market, as their management is not dynamic enough to explore the available opportunity in the market, thus many investors debate over whether or not the so-called professionals are any better than mutual fund or investor him self, for picking up stocks.
2. Costs – The biggest source of AMC income, is generally from the entry & exit load which they charge from an investors, at the time of purchase. The mutual fund industries are thus charging extra cost under layers of jargon.
3. Dilution - Because funds have small holdings across different companies, high returns from a few investments often don't make much difference on the overall return. Dilution is also the result of a successful fund getting too big. When money pours into funds that have had strong success, the manager often has trouble finding a good investment for all the new money.
4. Taxes - when making decisions about your money, fund managers don't consider your personal tax situation. For example, when a fund manager sells a security, a capital-gain tax is triggered, which affects how profitable the individual is from the sale. It might have been more advantageous for the individual to defer the capital gains liability.

Mutual fund is a trust that pools money from a group of investors (sharing common financial goals) and invest the money thus collected into asset classes that match the stated investment objectives of the scheme. Since the stated investment objectives of a mutual fund scheme generally forms the basis for an investor’s decision to contribute money to the pool, a mutual fund can not deviate from its stated objectives at any point of time. Every Mutual Fund is managed by a fund manager, who using his investment management skills and necessary research works ensures much better return than what an investor can manage on his own. The capital appreciation and other incomes earned from these investments are passed on to the investors (also known as unit holders) in proportion of the number of units they own.

When an investor subscribes for the units of a mutual fund, he becomes part owner of the assets of the fund in the same proportion as his contribution amount put up with the corpus (the total amount of the fund). Mutual Fund investor is also known as a mutual fund shareholder or a unit holder. Any change in the value of the investments made into capital market instruments (such as shares, debentures etc) is reflected in the Net Asset Value (NAV) of the scheme. NAV is defined as the market value of the Mutual Fund scheme’s assets net of its liabilities. NAV of a scheme is calculated by dividing the market value of scheme’s assets by the total number of units issued to the investors. For example:

  • If the market value of the assets of a fund is Rs 100,000
  • The total number of units issued to the investors is equal to 10,000
  • Then the NAV of this scheme = (A)/(B) i.e. 100,000/10,000 or 10.0
  • Now if an investor ’X’ own 5 units of this scheme
  • Then his total contribution to the fund is Rs. 50(i.e. Number of units held multiplied by the NAV of the scheme)
S.No. Advantages Particulars
1. Portfolio Diversification Mutual Funds invest in a well-diversified portfolio of securities which enables investor to hold a diversified investment portfolio (whether the amount of investment is big or small).
2. Professional Management Fund manager undergoes through various research works and has better investment management skills which ensure higher returns to the investor than what he can manage on his own.
3. Less Risks Investors acquire a diversified portfolio of securities even with a small investment in a Mutual Fund. The risk in a diversified portfolio is lesser than investing in merely 2 or 3 securities.
4. Low Transaction Costs Due to the economies of scale (benefits of larger volumes), mutual funds pay lesser transaction costs. These benefits are passed on to the investors.
5. Liquidity An investor may not be able to sell some of the shares held by him very easily and quickly, whereas units of a mutual fund are far more liquid.
6. Choice of Schemes Mutual funds provide investors with various schemes with different investment objectives. Investors have the option of investing in a scheme having a correlation between its investment objectives and their own financial goals. These schemes further have different plans/options
7. Transparency Funds provide investors with updated information pertaining to the markets and the schemes. All material facts are disclosed to investors as required by the regulator.
8. Flexibility Investors also benefit from the convenience and flexibility offered by Mutual Funds. Investors can switch their holdings from a debt scheme to an equity scheme and vice-versa. Option of systematic (at regular intervals) investment and withdrawal is also offered to the investors in most open-end schemes.
9. Safety Mutual Fund industry is part of a well-regulated investment environment where the interests of the investors are protected by the regulator. All funds are registered with SEBI and complete transparency is forced.

Broad Mutual Fund Type

 

 

1. Equity Funds
Equity funds are considered to be the more risky funds as compared to other fund types, but they also provide higher returns than other funds. It is advisable that an investor looking to invest in an equity fund should invest for long term i.e. for 3 years or more. There are different types of equity funds each falling into different risk bracket. In the order of decreasing risk level, there are following types of equity funds: 
a. Aggressive Growth Funds - In Aggressive Growth Funds, fund managers aspire for maximum capital appreciation and invest in less researched shares of speculative nature. Because of these speculative investments Aggressive Growth Funds become more volatile and thus, are prone to higher risk than other equity funds.
b. Growth Funds - Growth Funds also invest for capital appreciation (with time horizon of 3 to 5 years) but they are different from Aggressive Growth Funds in the sense that they invest in companies that are expected to outperform the market in the future. Without entirely adopting speculative strategies, Growth Funds invest in those companies that are expected to post above average earnings in the future.
c. Specialty Funds - Specialty Funds have stated criteria for investments and their portfolio comprises of only those companies that meet their criteria. Criteria for some specialty funds could be to invest/not to invest in particular regions/companies. Specialty funds are concentrated and thus, are comparatively riskier than diversified funds.. There are following types of specialty funds:
i. Sector Funds: Equity funds that invest in a particular sector/industry of the market are known as Sector Funds. The exposure of these funds is limited to a particular sector (say Information Technology, Auto, Banking, Pharmaceuticals or Fast Moving Consumer Goods) which is why they are more risky than equity funds that invest in multiple sectors.
ii. Foreign Securities Funds: Foreign Securities Equity Funds have the option to invest in one or more foreign companies. Foreign securities funds achieve international diversification and hence they are less risky than sector funds. However, foreign securities funds are exposed to foreign exchange rate risk and country risk.
iii.Mid-Cap or Small-Cap Funds: Funds that invest in companies having lower market capitalization than large capitalization companies are called Mid-Cap or Small-Cap Funds. Market capitalization of Mid-Cap companies is less than that of big, blue chip companies (less than Rs. 2500 crores but more than Rs. 500 crores) and Small-Cap companies have market capitalization of less than Rs. 500 crores. Market Capitalization of a company can be calculated by multiplying the market price of the company’s share by the total number of its outstanding shares in the market. The shares of Mid-Cap or Small-Cap Companies are not as liquid as of Large-Cap Companies which gives rise to volatility in share prices of these companies and consequently, investment gets risky.
iv. Option Income Funds*: While not yet available in India, Option Income Funds write options on a large fraction of their portfolio. Proper use of options can help to reduce volatility, which is otherwise considered as a risky instrument. These funds invest in big, high dividend yielding companies, and then sell options against their stock positions, which generate stable income for investors.
d. Diversified Equity Funds - Except for a small portion of investment in liquid money market, diversified equity funds invest mainly in equities without any concentration on a particular sector(s). These funds are well diversified and reduce sector-specific or company-specific risk. However, like all other funds diversified equity funds too are exposed to equity market risk. One prominent type of diversified equity fund in India is Equity Linked Savings Schemes (ELSS). As per the mandate, a minimum of 90% of investments by ELSS should be in equities at all times. ELSS investors are eligible to claim deduction from taxable income (up to Rs 1 lakh) at the time of filing the income tax return. ELSS usually has a lock-in period and in case of any redemption by the investor before the expiry of the lock-in period makes him liable to pay income tax on such income(s) for which he may have received any tax exemption(s) in the past.
e. Equity Index Funds - Equity Index Funds have the objective to match the performance of a specific stock market index. The portfolio of these funds comprises of the same companies that form the index and is constituted in the same proportion as the index. Equity index funds that follow broad indices (like S&P CNX Nifty, Sensex) are less risky than equity index funds that follow narrow sectoral indices (like BSEBANKEX or CNX Bank Index etc). Narrow indices are less diversified and therefore, are more risky.
f. Value Funds - Value Funds invest in those companies that have sound fundamentals and whose share prices are currently under-valued. The portfolio of these funds comprises of shares that are trading at a low Price to Earning Ratio (Market Price per Share / Earning per Share) and a low Market to Book Value (Fundamental Value) Ratio. Value Funds may select companies from diversified sectors and are exposed to lower risk level as compared to growth funds or specialty funds. Value stocks are generally from cyclical industries (such as cement, steel, sugar etc.) which make them volatile in the short-term. Therefore, it is advisable to invest in Value funds with a long-term time horizon as risk in the long term, to a large extent, is reduced.
g. Equity Income or Dividend Yield Funds - The objective of Equity Income or Dividend Yield Equity Funds is to generate high recurring income and steady capital appreciation for investors by investing in those companies which issue high dividends (such as Power or Utility companies whose share prices fluctuate comparatively lesser than other companies’ share prices). Equity Income or Dividend Yield Equity Funds are generally exposed to the lowest risk level as compared to other equity funds.

2. Debt / Income Funds- Funds that invest in medium to long-term debt instruments issued by private companies, banks, financial institutions, governments and other entities belonging to various sectors (like infrastructure companies etc.) are known as Debt / Income Funds. Debt funds are low risk profile funds that seek to generate fixed current income (and not capital appreciation) to investors. In order to ensure regular income to investors, debt (or income) funds distribute large fraction of their surplus to investors. Although debt securities are generally less risky than equities, they are subject to credit risk (risk of default) by the issuer at the time of interest or principal payment. To minimize the risk of default, debt funds usually invest in securities from issuers who are rated by credit rating agencies and are considered to be of "Investment Grade". Debt funds that target high returns are more risky. Based on different investment objectives, there can be following types of debt funds: 
a. Diversified Debt Funds - Debt funds that invest in all securities issued by entities belonging to all sectors of the market are known as diversified debt funds. The best feature of diversified debt funds is that investments are properly diversified into all sectors which results in risk reduction. Any loss incurred, on account of default by a debt issuer, is shared by all investors which further reduces risk for an individual investor.
b. Focused Debt Funds* - Unlike diversified debt funds, focused debt funds are narrow focus funds that are confined to investments in selective debt securities, issued by companies of a specific sector or industry or origin. Some examples of focused debt funds are sector, specialized and offshore debt funds, funds that invest only in Tax Free Infrastructure or Municipal Bonds. Because of their narrow orientation, focused debt funds are more risky as compared to diversified debt funds. Although not yet available in India, these funds are conceivable and may be offered to investors very soon.
c. High Yield Debt funds - As we now understand that risk of default is present in all debt funds, and therefore, debt funds generally try to minimize the risk of default by investing in securities issued by only those borrowers who are considered to be of "investment grade". But, High Yield Debt Funds adopt a different strategy and prefer securities issued by those issuers who are considered to be of "below investment grade". The motive behind adopting this sort of risky strategy is to earn higher interest returns from these issuers. These funds are more volatile and bear higher default risk, although they may earn at times higher returns for investors.
d. Assured Return Funds - Although it is not necessary that a fund will meet its objectives or provide assured returns to investors, but there can be funds that come with a lock-in period and offer assurance of annual returns to investors during the lock-in period. Any shortfall in returns is suffered by the sponsors or the Asset Management Companies (AMCs). These funds are generally debt funds and provide investors with a low-risk investment opportunity. However, the security of investments depends upon the net worth of the guarantor (whose name is specified in advance on the offer document). To safeguard the interests of investors, SEBI permits only those funds to offer assured return schemes whose sponsors have adequate net-worth to guarantee returns in the future. In the past, UTI had offered assured return schemes (i.e. Monthly Income Plans of UTI) that assured specified returns to investors in the future. UTI was not able to fulfill its promises and faced large shortfalls in returns. Eventually, government had to intervene and took over UTI’s payment obligations on itself. Currently, no AMC in India offers assured return schemes to investors, though possible.
e. Fixed Term Plan Series - Fixed Term Plan Series usually are closed-end schemes having short term maturity period (of less than one year) that offer a series of plans and issue units to investors at regular intervals. Unlike closed-end funds, fixed term plans are not listed on the exchanges. Fixed term plan series usually invest in debt / income schemes and target short-term investors. The objective of fixed term plan schemes is to gratify investors by generating some expected returns in a short period.

3. Gilt Funds- Also known as Government Securities in India, Gilt Funds invest in government papers (named dated securities) having medium to long term maturity period. Issued by the Government of India, these investments have little credit risk (risk of default) and provide safety of principal to the investors. However, like all debt funds, gilt funds too are exposed to interest rate risk. Interest rates and prices of debt securities are inversely related and any change in the interest rates results in a change in the NAV of debt/gilt funds in an opposite direction.

4. Money Market / Liquid Funds- Money market / liquid funds invest in short-term (maturing within one year) interest bearing debt instruments. These securities are highly liquid and provide safety of investment, thus making money market / liquid funds the safest investment option when compared with other mutual fund types. However, even money market / liquid funds are exposed to the interest rate risk. The typical investment options for liquid funds include Treasury Bills (issued by governments), Commercial papers (issued by companies) and Certificates of Deposit (issued by banks).

5. Hybrid Funds As the name suggests, hybrid funds are those funds whose portfolio includes a blend of equities, debts and money market securities. Hybrid funds have an equal proportion of debt and equity in their portfolio. There are following types of hybrid funds in India: 
a. Balanced Funds - The portfolio of balanced funds include assets like debt securities, convertible securities, and equity and preference shares held in a relatively equal proportion. The objectives of balanced funds are to reward investors with a regular income, moderate capital appreciation and at the same time minimizing the risk of capital erosion. Balanced funds are appropriate for conservative investors having a long term investment horizon.
b. Growth-and-Income Funds - Funds that combine features of growth funds and income funds are known as Growth-and-Income Funds. These funds invest in companies having potential for capital appreciation and those known for issuing high dividends. The level of risks involved in these funds is lower than growth funds and higher than income funds.
c. Asset Allocation Funds - Mutual funds may invest in financial assets like equity, debt, money market or non-financial (physical) assets like real estate, commodities etc.. Asset allocation funds adopt a variable asset allocation strategy that allows fund managers to switch over from one asset class to another at any time depending upon their outlook for specific markets. In other words, fund managers may switch over to equity if they expect equity market to provide good returns and switch over to debt if they expect debt market to provide better returns. It should be noted that switching over from one asset class to another is a decision taken by the fund manager on the basis of his own judgment and understanding of specific markets, and therefore, the success of these funds depends upon the skill of a fund manager in anticipating market trends.

6. Commodity Funds - those funds that focus on investing in different commodities (like metals, food grains, crude oil etc.) or commodity companies or commodity futures contracts are termed as Commodity Funds. A commodity fund that invests in a single commodity or a group of commodities is a specialized commodity fund and a commodity fund that invests in all available commodities is a diversified commodity fund and bears less risk than a specialized commodity fund. "Precious Metals Fund" and Gold Funds (that invest in gold, gold futures or shares of gold mines) are common examples of commodity funds.

7. Real Estate Funds - Funds that invest directly in real estate or lend to real estate developers or invest in shares/securitized assets of housing finance companies, are known as Specialized Real Estate Funds. The objective of these funds may be to generate regular income for investors or capital appreciation.

8. Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) - Exchange Traded Funds provide investors with combined benefits of a closed-end and an open-end mutual fund. Exchange Traded Funds follow stock market indices and are traded on stock exchanges like a single stock at index linked prices. The biggest advantage offered by these funds is that they offer diversification, flexibility of holding a single share (tradable at index linked prices) at the same time. Recently introduced in India, these funds are quite popular abroad.

9. Fund of Funds - Mutual funds that do not invest in financial or physical assets, but do invest in other mutual fund schemes offered by different AMCs, are known as Fund of Funds. Fund of Funds maintain a portfolio comprising of units of other mutual fund schemes, just like conventional mutual funds maintain a portfolio comprising of equity/debt/money market instruments or non financial assets. Fund of Funds provide investors with an added advantage of diversifying into different mutual fund schemes with even a small amount of investment, which further helps in diversification of risks. However, the expenses of Fund of Funds are quite high on account of compounding expenses of investments into different mutual fund schemes. * Funds not yet available in India

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