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Mutual Fund Basics
 
A Mutual Fund pools the savings of a number of investors and invests the same in a variety of different financial instruments, or securities. The income earned through these investments and the capital appreciation realised by the scheme are shared by its unit holders in proportion to the number of units owned by them. Mutual funds can thus be considered as financial intermediaries in the investment business who collect funds from the public and invest on behalf of the investors. The losses and gains accrue to the investors only. The Investment objectives outlined by a Mutual Fund in its prospectus are binding on the Mutual Fund scheme. The investment objectives specify the class of securities a Mutual Fund can invest in. Mutual Funds invest in various asset classes like equity, bonds, debentures, commercial paper and government securities.
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DIFFERENT TYPES OF MUTUAL FUNDS
 
(a) On the basis of Objective
 
Equity Funds/ Growth Funds
Funds that invest in equity shares are called equity funds. They carry the principal objective of capital appreciation of the investment over the medium to long-term. The returns in such funds are volatile since they are directly linked to the stock markets. They are best suited for investors who are seeking capital appreciation. There are different types of equity funds such as Diversified funds, Sector specific funds and Index based funds.
 
Diversified funds 
These funds invest in companies spread across sectors. These funds are generally meant for risk-taking investors who are not bullish about any particular sector.
 
Sector funds 
These funds invest primarily in equity shares of companies in a particular business sector or industry. These funds are targeted at investors who are extremely bullish about a particular sector. 
 
Index funds 
These funds invest in the same pattern as popular market indices like S&P 500 and BSE Index. The value of the index fund varies in proportion to the benchmark index.
 
Tax Saving Funds
These funds offer tax benefits to investors under the Income Tax Act. Opportunities provided under this scheme are in the form of tax rebates U/s 88 as well saving in Capital Gains U/s 54EA and 54EB. They are best suited for investors seeking tax concessions.
 
Debt / Income Funds
These Funds invest predominantly in high-rated fixed-income-bearing instruments like bonds, debentures, government securities, commercial paper and other money market instruments. They are best suited for the medium to long-term investors who are averse to risk and seek capital preservation. They provide regular income and safety to the investor.
 
Liquid Funds / Money Market Funds 
These funds invest in highly liquid money market instruments. The period of investment could be as short as a day. They provide easy liquidity. They have emerged as an alternative for savings and short-term fixed deposit accounts with comparatively higher returns. These funds are ideal for Corporates, institutional investors and business houses who invest their funds for very short periods. 
 
Gilt Funds
These funds invest in Central and State Government securities. Since they are Government backed bonds they give a secured return and also ensure safety of the principal amount. They are best suited for the medium to long-term investors who are averse to risk.
 
Balanced Funds 
These funds invest both in equity shares and fixed-income-bearing instruments (debt) in some proportion. They provide a steady return and reduce the volatility of the fund while providing some upside for capital appreciation. They are ideal for medium- to long-term investors willing to take moderate risks.
 
Hedge Funds
These funds adopt highly speculative trading strategies. They hedge risks in order to increase the value of the portfolio.
 
(b) On the basis of Flexibility
 
Open-ended Funds 
These funds do not have a fixed date of redemption. Generally they are open for subscription and redemption throughout the year. Their prices are linked to the daily net asset value (NAV). From the investors' perspective, they are much more liquid than closed-ended funds. Investors are permitted to join or withdraw from the fund after an initial lock-in period.
 
Close-ended Funds
These funds are open initially for entry during the Initial Public Offering (IPO) and thereafter closed for entry as well as exit. These funds have a fixed date of redemption. One of the characteristics of the close-ended schemes is that they are generally traded at a discount to NAV; but the discount narrows as maturity nears. These funds are open for subscription only once and can be redeemed only on the fixed date of redemption. The units of these funds are listed (with certain exceptions), are tradable and the subscribers to the fund would be able to exit from the fund at any time through the secondary market. 
 
Interval funds 
These funds combine the features of both open-ended and close-ended funds wherein the fund is close-ended for the first couple of years and open-ended thereafter. Some funds allow fresh subscriptions and redemption at fixed times every year (say every six months) in order to reduce the administrative aspects of daily entry or exit, yet providing reasonable liquidity.