Mutual funds represent a pool of securities that are either initially chosen or traded by professional portfolio managers. They offer diversification, professional management, and relative liquidity in most cases. There are now thousands of funds offered by banks, mutual fund companies, insurance companies, and professional money managers. They have their own share prices and performance histories, all of which is published by the funds each day. Much of this information is gathered from each fund company on a daily basis and summed up in tables that are disseminated by financial news sources. Knowing what these tables contain and how to read them will enable you to get the skinny on how your fund is doing quickly and easily.
Where to Find Them
Mutual fund tables can be found in just about any major financial newsfeed either in print or online. They appear in most city newspapers in the money section as well as USA Today and on numerous financial websites including the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, and Investor’s Business Daily.
Be sure to also read the Complete Guide to Mutual Fund Expenses
What They Contain and How to Read Them
This is the top section of the daily mutual table posted online by Barron’s on August 21, 2014:
Mutual fund tables contain several pieces of information that illustrate performance for both the previous day and longer historical periods. Their information can be broken down as follows:
52 Week High and Low – These numbers show the highest and lowest prices that the fund closed at on any trading day during the past year. This time period is updated on a daily basis to trail that day’s closing price.
Fund Name – This is typically abbreviated, because most fund names are rather long. For example, “IntMunBdInst” stands for International Municipal Bond Fund, Institutional Shares. There is usually a key or ledger that explains what many of the abbreviations mean, such as N for no-load, Inst for institutional and so on.
Week’s High and Low – The high and low closing prices for the past 5 trading days.
Close NAV – The closing Net Asset Value price of the fund the previous day. Open-ended mutual funds have forward pricing, because their prices cannot be determined until the close of the trading day, when the closing prices of all of the securities that the fund holds can be mathematically aggregated to determine the fund share price.
Wk’s Change – How much the fund price rose or fell over the past 5 trading days in dollars and cents.
-% Return – This shows how much the fund price rose or fell in terms of percentage for one week, Year-to-Date and over the past three years. +0.5 means that it rose by one half of one percent.
Ex Date – This is the calendar day on which the fund will begin trading at a lower price due to the adjustment from its dividend that will be paid.
Tips and Tricks
If you know your fund’s exact name and ticker symbol, you will have a much easier time finding it in the table. Make sure you are looking at the right share class, such as A, B or C shares, as they can differ in price in some cases. Also, remember that the daily changes in fund prices are not terribly important in the long run, so if you are averse to market volatility you may be better off focusing on the 52 week high and low, the YTD, and 3 year return numbers.
Of course, you can also find mutual fund data directly on the website of any fund company, although it is not always published exactly in standard table form. You will also find a great deal more information about the fund on the site than is published in any table, such as the fund company’s history, its portfolio managers and much more detailed information on each of its funds.
A large percentage of fund companies provide downloadable fact sheets that contain a complete range of a fund’s performance history going back to its inception, Morningstar commentary on the fund’s performance and a set of technical indicators that mathematically quantify the fund’s performance. Standard deviation measures the fund’s volatility while alpha measures the portfolio manager’s performance against the fund’s underlying benchmark. Beta compares the level of volatility of the fund versus the market at large. With that being said, this type of information is seldom found in mutual fund tables.
The Bottom Line
Mutual fund tables provide a quick summary of how a fund has done in both the short term and over longer periods of time. These tables can quickly show you where your fund is relative to its high and low prices over the past year and week, and also tell you when the ex date is, so that you will know to wait to buy more shares until after that date.