There's a lot going on in the mutual fund world and if you miss something, it could end up costing you money. To keep you up-to-date and on top of things, below we scope out some of last week's happenings in the mutual fund industry and how they may affect your portfolio.
Fidelity makes some changes
Fidelity International recently announced that two of its portfolio managers were heading for the exits -- involuntarily. The fund shop stated that it fired Kevin Chang and Wilson Wong over a breach of ethics. Chang and Wong managed four funds, including the Greater China Fund and Southeast Asia Fund. In total, the duo ran a combined $7 billion for Fidelity International.
According to Fidelity, the two were fired for placing their personal interests ahead of the company. Fidelity International has tapped fellow Asia-Pacific team members to take over the departing duo's responsibilities.
While it's never heartening to hear about managers behaving unethically, it's a reminder that a mutual fund is only as good as the person pulling the levers. That's why it's so important to look for funds with long-tenured managers and long-term track records. In general, the Fidelity organization has been known for making frequent changes to its manager line-up. Obviously that's a good thing in a case like this, but investors in Fidelity funds should pay attention whenever they have changes in management.
There aren't a huge number of Fidelity funds with managers who have been on the job for a decade or longer. But two terrific funds that measure up on this front are Fidelity Contrafund (FCNTX) and Fidelity Low-Priced Stock (FLPSX), with managers that have been on the job for roughly 20 years. Contrafund invests in blue-chip growth names like Coca-Cola
Hidden risks of bond ETFs
Investors who buy fixed-income exchange-traded funds may end up overpaying for the assets in their funds, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. Since corporate bonds tend to be rather illiquid, that means investors could be buying and selling at prices that don't reflect the true value of the underlying assets. And given that bond ETFs saw nearly $60 billion in inflows last year, all that demand has pushed up bond ETF shares to trade at premiums. Once interest rates rise, however, and investors begin to sell, they could be selling at a discount and losing money.
It's true that a relative lack of liquidity for non-Treasury bonds could end up hurting bond ETF investors, especially at this point in the bond market cycle. Bond ETFs, while extremely cheap and useful, are not without their own faults and drawbacks.
To avoid or minimize the risk of a lack of liquidity cutting into your profits, there are a few things investors can do. First, stick to broad-market bond ETFs like iShares Barclays Aggregate Bond ETF (AGG), which invests in both Treasury and corporate bonds. This diversification should help minimize any effects of illiquidity. Secondly, if you're really worried about corporate bond liquidity, you can always invest in a bond index fund, whose assets are always priced at net asset value.
Overall, this should serve as a lesson to investors that there are drawbacks when certain segments of the market go on a hot streak and attract a lot of attention: You're likely to pay more for owning funds that invest in these areas and face a higher risk of loss once excitement dies down.
T. Rowe Price and Oppenheimer Funds take the cake
In this age of information technology, a company's Web presence can have a meaningful impact on how consumers view their product. In the mutual fund world, two companies are consistent winners when it comes to their Internet domain. According to Dalbar's 2009 Fourth Quarter Mutual Fund Ranking and Trending Report, Oppenheimer Funds and T. Rowe Price won the top spots in the financial professional and consumer website categories, respectively. This is Oppenheimer's 20th straight quarter winning an "excellent" designation, while T. Rowe has won the top spot in the consumer site division for nine straight quarters.
But while T. Rowe and Oppenheimer may have taken top honors for their websites, that doesn't necessarily mean you should buy their funds. Oppenheimer does have several decent fund options that would serve investors well, but its fund line-up typically comes with front-end loads, which investors should avoid paying at all costs. If you can get access to their funds within your 401(k) or other retirement plan, these loads are frequently waived, so it may make sense to buy. But if you have to pay the load in order to own an Oppenheimer fund, think about looking elsewhere.
T. Rowe Price, on the other hand, is completely load-free and offers several inexpensive and first-rate investments. One fund that investors might want to consider in the current environment is T. Rowe Price Equity-Income (PRFDX), which invests in high-yielding stocks like ExxonMobil
Stay tuned for more mutual fund news and updates in the coming weeks!
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Amanda Kish is the Fool's resident fund advisor for the Rule Your Retirement investment newsletter. Amanda owns shares of Fidelity Contrafund. Bed Bath & Beyond is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Coca-Cola is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick and a Motley Fool Income Investor selection. The Fool has a disclosure policy.