Stock Market Today: Dow Ekes Out Record, Nasdaq Retreats Again

The Dow Jones Industrial Average managed to set an all-time high amid, for a third straight day, a palpable investor preference for the reopening trade.

Payroll provider ADP on Wednesday reported that American private-sector employers added 742,000 jobs last month – below consensus expectations for 800,000 jobs, but a massive improvement from March’s 565,000.

Meanwhile, the Institute for Supply Management showed a services index reading of 62.7 in April; while anything above 50 suggests expansion, the reading missed forecasts and was down a point from March.

“April’s print is very strong any way you slice it, with the reading still at its second-highest level, and accompanied by an even more robust 64.7 print for the Markit service sector PMI,” says Barclays economist Jonathan Millar. “Hence, we see little reason to infer anything but positive signals from today’s report, which points to a sustained acceleration in service sector activity with ongoing progress in the vaccination campaign and measures by many states and municipalities to ease social distancing restrictions.”

Both data points still represented signs of growth, which was enough to bolster energy stocks such as Exxon Mobil (XOM, +3.0%) and Chevron (CVX, +2.7%) on a slightly down day for oil prices, and jolt materials plays such as Dow (DOW, +2.8%) and gases firm Linde (LIN, +3.0%).

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Other notable movers were General Motors (GM, +4.1%), which gained on a wide Q1 earnings beat ($2.25 per share vs. estimates for $1.04), and Peloton Interactive (PTON, -14.6%), whose shares cratered after announcing voluntary recalls of all Tread and Tread+ treadmills, which have caused one death and several injuries.

While early gains fizzled late, the Dow once again led the major indexes with a modest 0.3% gain to a record 34,230. The S&P 500 (up marginally to 4,167) inched ahead, while the Nasdaq Composite (-0.4% to 13,582) suffered its fourth consecutive decline.

Other action in the stock market today:

  • Facebook (FB, 1.1%) was in focus today, after the company’s oversight committee said it was right to ban former President Donald Trump from its platform following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol citing a “clear, immediate risk of harm,” but it was not justified in making the ban indefinite. “The reaction on both sides to Facebook’s Oversight Board statement on former President Trump’s suspension speaks to how central these social media platforms have become for interpersonal communication,” says David Keller, Chief Market Strategist at StockCharts.com. Facebook now has six months to decide if the ban will be permanent.
  • Jessica Alba’s Honest (HNST, +43.8%) surged in its market debut, after the initial public offering (IPO) last night was priced at $16 per share. HNST stock opened today at $21.22, climbed as high as $23.88, and closed at $23.00.
  • The small-cap Russell 2000 was off by 0.3% to 2,241.
  • U.S. crude oil futures slipped marginally to end at $65.63 per barrel.
  • Gold futures gained 0.5% to settle at $1,784.30 an ounce.
  • The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) declined by 2.1% to 19.08.
  • Bitcoin prices rebounded 4.5% to $57,105.99. (Bitcoin trades 24 hours a day; prices reported here are as of 4 p.m. each trading day.)
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How to Get Out of This Holding Pattern

Even with the Dow at new highs, the broader market has been mired in mostly sideways action for weeks. Fortunately, investors looking to liven up their portfolios have quite a few options at their disposal.

Longer-term, you can find difference makers by looking at companies that are shaping the future via innovative technologies that could be with us for years to come. You can find a host of these among Argus Research’s best “innovator” picks.

In the shorter term, you can join in the reopening trade via oil stocks, travel plays and other clear beneficiaries of ramped-up vaccinations and looser COVID restrictions. But you can also do well by listening closely for the sound of sabers rattling.

Activist investors – Wall Street’s well-known (and often productive) malcontents – have made a name for themselves by taking significant stakes in underperforming companies and rallying shareholder votes to implement measures they believe will drive up their stocks’ value. Their mere involvement can put a charge into shares, and occasionally their successes do end up translating into stronger operations … and stronger returns.

Read on as we check out 13 such stocks that are currently getting the full-court press from Wall Street activists.

Source: kiplinger.com

30-Year Fixed Mortgage Rate Hits Yet Another Record Low, Falls Below 3.2 Percent for the First Time

As of May 5, the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow for 30-year fixed mortgages was 2.72%.

Abstract illustration of houses and charts

As of May 5, the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow for 30-year fixed mortgages was 2.72%.

Mortgage rates fall to lowest levels in months.

“Mortgage rates fell slightly again this week, pushing rates to their lowest level since mid-to-late February,” said Zillow Economist Matthew Speakman. “With few surprising economic data or pandemic-related developments this week, mortgage rates and the bond yields that tend to influence them saw little reason to move significantly over the past seven days. Unlike stocks, bonds and mortgage rates brushed aside comments made by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, in which she suggested (but did not recommend) that interest rates will likely have to rise somewhat in order to ensure that the economy doesn’t overheat. But this period of relative calm will be put to the test in the coming days. April employment figures and inflation data, two key gauges of the economy’s path forward, are due this week, and stronger-than-expected readings of either – or both – reports will likely revert mortgage rates back upward.”

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.09%, and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.38%.

Check Zillow for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute mortgage rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.

The weekly mortgage rate chart above illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate for the past week. Here’s a comprehensive look at the current mortgage rates for all loan types:

Today’s Average Rates for Conventional Loans

Program Interest Rate APR 1 Wk Change
30-Year Fixed 2.77% 2.82% 0.11%
20-Year Fixed 2.63% 2.71% 0.06%
15-Year Fixed 2.09% 2.17% 0.03%
10-Year Fixed 2.03% 2.15% -0.08%
7/1 ARM 2.22% 2.92% 0.26%
5/1 ARM 2.19% 3.04% 0.21%
3/1 ARM 0% 0% 0%

A 30-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 2.77% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,227. A 20-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 2.63% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,609. A 15-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 2.09% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,942. A 10-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 2.03% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,764. A 7/1 ARM loan of $300,000 at 2.22% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,141. A 5/1 ARM loan of $300,000 at 2.19% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,137. A 3/1 ARM loan of $0 at 0% APR with a $0 down payment will have a monthly payment of $0. All monthly payments displayed assume a maximum Loan to Value (LTV) of 80% and 740 credit score, and do not include amount for taxes and insurance. The actual monthly payment may be greater.

Today’s Average Rates for Government Loans

Program Interest Rate APR 1 Wk Change
30-Year Fixed FHA 2.4% 3.07% 0.17%
30-Year Fixed VA 2.47% 2.73% 0.12%
15-Year Fixed FHA 2.23% 2.93% 0.09%
15-Year Fixed VA 2.42% 2.89% 0.17%
5/1 ARM FHA 2.59% 2.97% 0.02%
5/1 ARM VA 3.17% 2.83% -0.27%

A 30-Year Fixed FHA loan of $300,000 at 2.4% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,170. A 30-Year Fixed VA loan of $300,000 at 2.47% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,180. A 15-Year Fixed FHA loan of $300,000 at 2.23% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,962. A 15-Year Fixed VA loan of $300,000 at 2.42% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,988. A 5/1 ARM FHA loan of $300,000 at 2.59% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,200. A 5/1 ARM VA loan of $300,000 at 3.17% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,291. All monthly payments displayed assume a maximum Loan to Value (LTV) of 80% and 740 credit score, and do not include amount for taxes and insurance. The actual monthly payment may be greater.

Today’s Average Rates for Jumbo Loans

Program Interest Rate APR 1 Wk Change
30-Year Fixed Jumbo 3.2% 3.25% 0.09%
20-Year Fixed Jumbo 3.28% 3.32% 0.25%
15-Year Fixed Jumbo 2.81% 2.89% 0.11%
10-Year Fixed Jumbo 2.5% 2.6% 0.1%
7/1 ARM Jumbo 2.68% 3.17% -0.35%
5/1 ARM Jumbo 2.75% 3.21% -0.25%
3/1 ARM Jumbo 2.14% 2.74% 0%

A 30-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 3.2% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,595. A 20-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 3.28% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $3,411. A 15-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.81% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $4,089. A 10-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.5% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $5,656. A 7/1 ARM Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.68% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,428. A 5/1 ARM Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.75% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,449. A 3/1 ARM Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.14% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,259. All monthly payments displayed assume a maximum Loan to Value (LTV) of 80% and 740 credit score, and do not include amount for taxes and insurance. The actual monthly payment may be greater.

Source: zillow.com

Investing during a recession – Lexington Law

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

When things get lean, it’s natural to want to tighten your belt and save money wherever possible. But should you stop investing completely? It’s an entirely personal decision. Get some facts and insights about investing during a recession below to help you determine what will work for you.

Is It a Good Idea to Invest During a Recession?

It depends on a few factors, including what you’re referring to when you say “investing.” If you’re talking about funding a 401(k), you probably want to continue doing so unless you would be unable to pay your necessary bills and living expenses.

But if investing means the stock market or other similar options, you should seriously consider your financial situation. If you already have emergency savings and have disposable income to risk, investing can be an option. This is especially true if you won’t be touching your portfolio for a while, so you have time to weather the ups and downs associated with a recession economy.

But you do want to be aware of the bear market trap so you don’t fall into it. Bear traps occur when a lot of investors have bought into certain stock. This increases the selling pressure, which just means that there are buyers for the stock but not a lot of stock to be had.

Institutions that want the stock to move higher may push prices lower via short sales or other strategies, making it appear as if the prices are falling. That can scare people into selling the stock. In the long run, however, the stock maintains its price or increases in value, so selling early can mean losing out on future gains. This is just one reason you might want to work with a professional advisor when investing.

7 Tips for Investing During a Recession

1. Be Patient and Think Long-Term

Buying and selling stocks rapidly to turn huge profits is mostly an event seen in movies and television. And while it’s not impossible for pros to luck into a big win, this is not typically how individuals should look at investing. It may take time for your investments to pay off, especially if the economy as a whole is struggling, so it’s important to avoid being guided by emotions and rely on logic and sound financial advice.

2. Commit to a Personal Investment Plan

A personal investment plan is a written document that includes your financial goals and what types of limitations you might have, such as what you can afford to spend on investing. Creating such a document ensures you have a logical, well-thought-out guide to turn to when things do get tricky. If you feel tempted by a seemingly perfect investment, for example, your plan can remind you what you can realistically put into this new investment.

3. Use the Dollar-Cost Averaging Strategy

Dollar-cost averaging is a strategy used by many investors, including some professionals. Its goal is to potentially reduce the volatile nature of a single purchase. The DCA strategy works like this:

  • You decide how much you’re going to invest in certain assets within a set period
  • You divide that budget over that time and make periodic purchases of the asset
  • You do this despite the price of the asset at any given time

The goal is to build up the investment for a long-term gain strategy. This is actually how most 401(k) investments are managed.

4. Focus on Quality Over Quantity

But don’t think that you have to buy tons of assets to be investing for the future. If you have limited funds to invest with, it can be tempting to buy up stock that is cheap just to get some quantity. But cheap stock isn’t always a great investment, and it might be better to buy a smaller number of shares in a well-trusted company with a history of strong stock performance.

5. Consider Funds Instead of Individual Stocks

Another option is to consider funds, which spread your investment over numerous stocks. You’ve probably heard that you have to diversify your portfolio. That just means investing in numerous types of assets so that if one doesn’t perform well, you have other gains to make up for the loss.

A mutual fund is an investment option that’s already diversified, for example. Plus, it’s a convenient way to add numerous assets to your equity portfolio without buying and managing numerous stocks yourself.

6. Rebalance When Necessary

While investing is a long-term strategy, active investing can’t be a set-and-forget strategy. You have to make efforts to rebalance your portfolio—or ensure someone is doing that for you—from time to time.

Rebalancing just means aligning your assets with your target goals. For example, you might have a goal of 60% in stocks and 40% in other assets. But if your stocks gain rapidly during a few years, outpacing the gains of your other assets, you could have a 70/30 split. If your goal is still 60/40, you would rebalance by selling stock, purchasing other assets or both.

7. Invest in Recession-Resistant Industries

Recession-resistant industries are those that don’t tend to succumb to downturns in the economy, often because they’re necessary. Examples of industries that have historically weathered recessions well include healthcare, technology, beauty, retail, construction and pet products.

Note that because a company is in a recession-resistant industry doesn’t mean that company itself is necessarily resistant. It’s always important to be discerning about which stocks you invest in. For example, if the company doesn’t have strong financial leadership or has known money problems, it may not matter what industry it’s in.

Review Your Finances and Decide What’s Best for You

Ultimately, only you can decide whether investing during a recession is right for you. Start by reviewing your own finances. Some things you might want to look at include:

  • What kind of savings you have. Having emergency savings is important, especially in a recession. Before you start investing, you may want to build yours.
  • Your income and expenses. You need disposable income before you can invest. That means that your income should be more than your expenses.
  • Your credit history. Buying stocks and investing typically doesn’t rely on you having good credit. But before you start building wealth, get a good look at your credit reports to ensure there’s nothing lurking that you might need to attend to. If you find any surprises, consider reaching out to Lexington Law for help disputing inaccurate items and working to make a positive impact on your credit.

And if you do decide to invest—during a recession or otherwise—consider working with a financial advisor to help you navigate the complexities of managing your portfolio.


Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

30-Year Fixed Mortgage Rate Holds Steady

As of May 5, the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow for 30-year fixed mortgages was 2.72%.

Abstract illustration of houses and charts

As of May 5, the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow for 30-year fixed mortgages was 2.72%.

Mortgage rates fall to lowest levels in months.

“Mortgage rates fell slightly again this week, pushing rates to their lowest level since mid-to-late February,” said Zillow Economist Matthew Speakman. “With few surprising economic data or pandemic-related developments this week, mortgage rates and the bond yields that tend to influence them saw little reason to move significantly over the past seven days. Unlike stocks, bonds and mortgage rates brushed aside comments made by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, in which she suggested (but did not recommend) that interest rates will likely have to rise somewhat in order to ensure that the economy doesn’t overheat. But this period of relative calm will be put to the test in the coming days. April employment figures and inflation data, two key gauges of the economy’s path forward, are due this week, and stronger-than-expected readings of either – or both – reports will likely revert mortgage rates back upward.”

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.09%, and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.38%.

Check Zillow for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute mortgage rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.

The weekly mortgage rate chart above illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate for the past week. Here’s a comprehensive look at the current mortgage rates for all loan types:

Today’s Average Rates for Conventional Loans

Program Interest Rate APR 1 Wk Change
30-Year Fixed 2.79% 2.84% 0.09%
20-Year Fixed 2.66% 2.73% 0.04%
15-Year Fixed 2.1% 2.19% 0.02%
10-Year Fixed 2.03% 2.15% -0.08%
7/1 ARM 2.24% 2.94% 0.24%
5/1 ARM 2.27% 3.08% 0.17%
3/1 ARM 0% 0% 0%

A 30-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 2.79% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,231. A 20-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 2.66% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,612. A 15-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 2.1% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,944. A 10-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 2.03% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,764. A 7/1 ARM loan of $300,000 at 2.24% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,144. A 5/1 ARM loan of $300,000 at 2.27% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,149. A 3/1 ARM loan of $0 at 0% APR with a $0 down payment will have a monthly payment of $0. All monthly payments displayed assume a maximum Loan to Value (LTV) of 80% and 740 credit score, and do not include amount for taxes and insurance. The actual monthly payment may be greater.

Today’s Average Rates for Government Loans

Program Interest Rate APR 1 Wk Change
30-Year Fixed FHA 2.41% 3.07% 0.16%
30-Year Fixed VA 2.49% 2.75% 0.1%
15-Year Fixed FHA 2.23% 2.94% 0.08%
15-Year Fixed VA 2.42% 2.89% 0.17%
5/1 ARM FHA 2.59% 2.97% 0.02%
5/1 ARM VA 3.09% 2.77% -0.22%

A 30-Year Fixed FHA loan of $300,000 at 2.41% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,170. A 30-Year Fixed VA loan of $300,000 at 2.49% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,183. A 15-Year Fixed FHA loan of $300,000 at 2.23% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,962. A 15-Year Fixed VA loan of $300,000 at 2.42% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,989. A 5/1 ARM FHA loan of $300,000 at 2.59% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,200. A 5/1 ARM VA loan of $300,000 at 3.09% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,279. All monthly payments displayed assume a maximum Loan to Value (LTV) of 80% and 740 credit score, and do not include amount for taxes and insurance. The actual monthly payment may be greater.

Today’s Average Rates for Jumbo Loans

Program Interest Rate APR 1 Wk Change
30-Year Fixed Jumbo 3.24% 3.28% 0.06%
20-Year Fixed Jumbo 3.3% 3.34% 0.23%
15-Year Fixed Jumbo 2.83% 2.9% 0.09%
10-Year Fixed Jumbo 2.5% 2.6% 0.1%
7/1 ARM Jumbo 2.65% 3.1% -0.28%
5/1 ARM Jumbo 2.66% 3.15% -0.18%
3/1 ARM Jumbo 2.14% 2.74% 0%

A 30-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 3.24% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,606. A 20-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 3.3% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $3,416. A 15-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.83% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $4,093. A 10-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.5% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $5,656. A 7/1 ARM Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.65% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,418. A 5/1 ARM Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.66% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,420. A 3/1 ARM Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.14% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,259. All monthly payments displayed assume a maximum Loan to Value (LTV) of 80% and 740 credit score, and do not include amount for taxes and insurance. The actual monthly payment may be greater.

Source: zillow.com

What Is a Bond Mutual Fund – Risks & Different Types of This Investment

Investing is an important part of saving for the future, but many people are wary of putting their money into the stock market. Stocks can be volatile, with prices that change every day. If you can’t handle the volatility and risk of stocks or want to diversify your portfolio into a less risky investment, bonds are a good way to do so.

As with many types of investments, you can invest in bonds through a mutual fund, which gives you easy diversification and professional portfolio management — for a fee.

Are bond mutual funds a good addition to your portfolio? Here are the basics of these investment vehicles.

What Is a Bond?

A bond is a type of debt security. When organizations such as national and local governments, government agencies, or companies want to borrow money, one of the ways they can get the loan they need is by issuing a bond.

Investors purchase bonds from the organizations issuing them. Typically, bonds come with an interest rate and a maturity. For example, a company might sell bonds with an interest rate of 5% and a maturity of 20 years.

The investor would pay the company $1,000 for a $1,000 bond. Each year, that investor receives an interest payment of $50 (5% of $1,000). After 20 years, the investor receives a final interest payment plus the $1,000 they paid to buy the bond.


What Is a Mutual Fund?

A mutual fund is a way for investors to invest in a diverse portfolio while only having to purchase a single security.

Mutual funds pool money from many investors and use that money to buy bonds, stocks, and other securities. Each investor in the fund effectively owns a portion of the fund’s portfolio, so an investor can buy shares in one mutual fund to get exposure to hundreds of stocks or bonds.

This makes it easy for investors to diversify their portfolios.

Mutual fund managers make sure the fund’s portfolio follows their stated strategy and work towards the fund’s stated goal. Mutual funds charge a fee, called an expense ratio, for their services, which is important for investors to keep in mind when comparing funds.

Pro tip: Most mutual funds can be purchased through the individual fund family or through an online broker like Robinhood or Public.


Types of Bond Mutual Funds

There are many types of bond mutual funds that people can invest in.

1. Government

Government bond funds invest most of their money into bonds issued by different governments. Most American government bond funds invest primarily in bonds issued by the U.S. Treasury.

U.S. government debt is seen as some of the safest debt available. There is very little chance that the United States will default on its payments. That security can be appealing for investors, but also translates to lower interest rates than other bonds.

2. Corporate

Corporate bond funds invest most of their assets into bonds issued by companies.

Just like individuals, businesses receive credit ratings that affect how much interest they have to pay to lenders — in this case, investors looking to buy their bonds. Most corporate bond funds buy “investment-grade” bonds, which include the highest-rated bonds from the most creditworthy companies.

The lower a bond’s credit rating, the higher the interest rate it will pay. However, lower credit ratings also translate to a higher risk of default, so corporate bond funds will hold a mixture of bonds from a variety of companies to help diversify their risks.

3. Municipal

Municipal bonds are bonds issued by state and local governments, as well as government agencies.

Like businesses, different municipalities can have different credit ratings, which impacts the interest they must pay to sell their bonds. Municipal bond funds own a mixture of different bonds to help reduce the risk of any one issuer defaulting on its payments.

One unique perk of municipal bonds is that some or all of the interest that investors earn can be tax-free. The tax treatment of the returns depends on the precise holdings of the fund and where the investor lives.

Some mutual fund companies design special municipal bond funds for different states, giving investors from those states an option that provides completely tax-free yields.

The tax advantages municipal bond funds offer can make their effective yields higher than other bond funds that don’t offer tax-free yields. For example, someone in the 24% tax bracket would need to earn just under 4% on a taxable bond fund to get the equivalent return of a tax-free municipal bond fund offering 3%.

4. High-Yield

High-yield bond funds invest in bonds that offer higher interest rates than other bonds, like municipal bonds and government bonds.

Typically, this means buying bonds from issuers with lower credit ratings than investment-grade bonds. These bonds are sometimes called junk bonds. Their name comes from the fact that they are significantly riskier than other types of bonds, so there’s a higher chance that the issuer defaults and stops making interest payments.

Bond mutual funds diversify by buying bonds from hundreds of different issuers, which can help reduce this risk, but there’s still a good chance that some of the bonds in the fund’s portfolio will go into default, which can drag down the fund’s performance.

5. International

Foreign governments and companies need to borrow money just like American companies and governments. There’s nothing stopping Americans from investing in foreign bonds, so there are some mutual funds that focus on buying international bonds.

Each country and company has a credit rating that impacts the interest rate it has to pay. Many stable governments are seen as highly safe, much like the United States, but smaller or less economically developed nations sometimes have lower credit ratings, leading them to pay higher interest rates.

Another factor to keep in mind with international bonds is the currency they’re denominated in.

With American bonds, you buy the bond in dollars and get interest payments in dollars. If you buy a British bond, you might have to convert your dollars to pounds to buy the bond and receive your interest payments in pounds. This adds some currency risk to the equation, which can make investing in international bond funds more complex.

6. Mixed

Some bond mutual funds don’t specialize in any single type of bond. Instead, they hold a variety of bonds, foreign and domestic, government and corporate. This lets the fund managers focus on buying high-quality bonds with solid yields instead of restricting themselves to a specific class of bonds.


Why Invest in Bond Mutual Funds?

There are a few reasons for investors to consider investing in bond mutual funds.

Reduce Portfolio Risk and Volatility

One advantage of investing in bonds is that they tend to be much less risky and volatile than stocks.

Investing in stocks or mutual funds that hold stocks is an effective way to grow your investment portfolio. The S&P 500, for example, has averaged returns of almost 10% per year over the past century. However, in some years, the index has moved almost 40% upward or downward.

Over the long term, it’s easier to handle the volatility of stocks, but some people don’t have long-term investing goals. For example, people in retirement are more concerned with producing income and maintaining their spending power.

Putting some of your portfolio into bonds can reduce the impact of volatile stocks on your portfolio. This can be good for more risk-averse investors or those who have shorter time horizons for their investments.

There are some mutual funds, called target-date mutual funds, that hold a mix of stocks and bonds and increase their bond holdings over time, reducing risk as the target date nears.

Income

Bonds make regular interest payments to their holders and the majority of bond funds use some of the money they receive to make payments to their investors. This makes bond mutual funds popular among investors who want to make their investment portfolio a source of passive income.

You can look at different bond mutual funds and their annual yields to get an idea of how much income they’ll provide each year. For example, if a mutual fund offers a yield of 2.5%, investors can expect to receive $250 each year for every $10,000 they invest in the fund.

Pro tip: Have you considered hiring a financial advisor but don’t want to pay the high fees? Enter Vanguard Personal Advisor Services. When you sign up you’ll work closely with an advisor to create a custom investment plan that can help you meet your financial goals. Read our Vanguard Personal Advisor Services review.


Risks of Bond Funds

Before investing in bonds or bond mutual funds, you should consider the risks of investing in bonds.

Interest Rate Risk

One of the primary risks of fixed-income investing — whether you’re investing in bonds or bond funds — is interest rate risk.

Investors can buy and sell most bonds on the open market in addition to buying newly issued bonds directly from the issuing company or government. The market value of a bond will change with market interest rates.

In general, if market rates rise, the value of existing bonds falls. Conversely, if market rates fall, the value of existing bonds rises.

To understand why this happens, consider this example. Say you purchased a BBB-rated corporate bond with an interest rate of 2% for $1,000. Since you bought the bond, market rates have increased, so now BBB-rated companies now have to pay 3% to convince investors to buy their bonds.

If someone can buy a new $1,000 bond paying 3% interest, why would they pay you the same amount for your $1,000 bond paying 2% interest? If you want to sell your bond, you’ll have to sell it at a discount because investors can get a better deal on newly issued bonds.

Of course, the opposite is true if interest rates fall. In the above example, if market rates fell to 1%, you could command a premium for your bond paying 2% because investors can’t find new bonds of the same quality that pay that much anymore.

Interest rate risk applies to bond funds just as it applies to individual bonds. As rates rise, the share price of the fund tends to fall and vice versa.

Generally, the longer the bond’s maturity, the greater the effect a change in market interest rates will have on the bond’s value. Short-term bonds have much less interest rate risk than long-term bonds. Bond funds usually list the average time to maturity of bonds in their portfolio, which can help you assess a fund’s interest rate risk.

Credit Risk

Bonds are debt securities, meaning they’re reliant on the bond issuer being able to pay its debts.

Just like people, companies and governments can go bankrupt or default on their loan payments. If this happens, the people who own those bonds won’t get the money they lent back.

Bond mutual funds hold thousands of bonds, but if one of the issuers defaults, some of the fund’s bonds become worthless, reducing the value of the investors’ shares in the fund.

Bonds issued by organizations with higher credit ratings are generally less risky than those with poor credit ratings. For example, most people would consider U.S. government bonds to have a very low credit risk. A junk bond fund would have much more credit risk.

Foreign Exchange Risk

If you’re buying shares in a bond fund that invests in foreign bonds, you should consider foreign exchange risk.

Currencies constantly fluctuate in value. Over the past five years, $1 could buy anywhere between 0.80 and 0.96 euros.

To maximize returns, investors want to buy foreign bonds when the dollar is strong and receive interest payments and return of principal when the dollar is weak.

However, it’s incredibly hard to predict how currencies’ values will change over time, so investors in foreign bonds should consider how changing currency values will affect their returns.

Some bond funds use different strategies to hedge against this risk, using tools like currency futures or buying dollar-denominated bonds from foreign entities.

Fees

Mutual funds charge fees, which they commonly express as an expense ratio.

A fund’s expense ratio is the percentage of your invested assets that you pay each year. For example, someone who invests $10,000 in a mutual fund with a 1% expense ratio will pay $100 in fees each year.

Expense ratio fees are included when calculating the fund’s share price each day, so you don’t have to worry about having cash on hand to pay the fee. The fees are taken directly out of the fund’s share price, almost imperceptibly. Still, it’s important to understand the impact fees have on your overall returns.

If you invest $10,000 in a fund that produces an annual return of 5% and has a 0.25% expense ratio, after 20 years you’ll have $25,297.68. If that same fund had an expense ratio of 0.50%, you’d finish the 20 years with $24,117.14 instead.

In this example, a difference of 0.25% in fees would cost you more than $1,000.

If you find two bond funds with similar holdings and strategies, the one with the lower fees tends to be the better choice.


Final Word

Bond mutual funds are a popular way for investors to get exposure to bonds in their portfolios. Just as there are many different types of stocks, there are many types of bonds, each with advantages and disadvantages.

If you don’t want to pick and choose bonds to invest in, bond funds offer instant diversification and professional management. If you want an even more hands-off investing experience, working with a financial advisor or robo-advisor that handles your entire portfolio may be worth considering.

Source: moneycrashers.com