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Types of Mutual Funds
Mutual funds are divided into several kinds of categories, representing the kinds of securities they have targeted for their portfolios and the type of returns they seek. There is a fund for nearly every type of investor or investment approach. Other common types of mutual funds include money market funds, sector funds, alternative funds, smart-beta funds, target-date funds, and even funds-of-funds, or mutual funds that buy shares of other mutual funds.
The largest category is that of equity or stock funds. As the name implies, this sort of fund invests principally in stocks. Within this group are various subcategories. Some equity funds are named for the size of the companies they invest in: small-, mid-, or large-cap. Others are named by their investment approach: aggressive growth, income-oriented, value, and others. Equity funds are also categorized by whether they invest in domestic (U.S.) stocks or foreign equities. There are so many different types of equity funds because there are many different types of equities. A great way to understand the universe of equity funds is to use a style box, an example of which is below.
The idea here is to classify funds based on both the size of the companies invested in (their market caps) and the growth prospects of the invested stocks. The term value fund refers to a style of investing that looks for high-quality, low-growth companies that are out of favor with the market. These companies are characterized by low price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios, low price-to-book (P/B) ratios, and high dividend yields. Conversely, spectrums are growth funds, which look to companies that have had (and are expected to have) strong growth in earnings, sales, and cash flows. These companies typically have high P/E ratios and do not pay dividends. A compromise between strict value and growth investment is a "blend," which simply refers to companies that are neither value nor growth stocks and are classified as being somewhere in the middle.