With mutual funds, a group of investors put their money together and the fund manager invests the money in various assets. Investing in a mutual fund allows you to invest in whatever assets the fund is holding and share in the any profits the fund makes from its investments. The net asset value (NAV) is the value of the assets a mutual fund is holding. It’s calculated by subtracting the fund’s liabilities from its assets.
The net asset value per share for a fund is the net asset value divided by the number of outstanding shares. For example, if a fund has $40 million in assets and $10 million in liabilities, its net asset value is $30 million. If the fund has 1.5 million in outstanding shares, the net asset value per share is $20.
A mutual fund’s net asset value will change daily because the number of outstanding shares and the fund’s holdings change daily. So, most mutual funds are required to calculate their net asset value at least once a day and most funds calculate after the exchange closes
Open End and Closed End Mutual Funds
There are open ended and closed end mutual funds. Open end funds can issue an unlimited number of shares to investors who want to put money in the fund. Open-end funds can also buy back shares from shareholders who want to cash out their investment.
An open-end fund’s share price is usually closely related to its net asset value, unlike stock shares that have perceived value based on how investors feel about the stock. Price quotes for mutual fund shares don’t actually match the price at which an order will be executed because the price quote is based on the fund’s net asset value from the previous day. Also unlike stocks, mutual fund prices don’t change throughout the day.
Closed-end funds issue a finite number of shares that are traded on the stock exchange. These funds don’t typically issue new shares when investors want to put more money in the fund, but the fund can choose to do so. Closed-end funds also do not buy back shares from shareholders. Investing in closed end funds behave more like stocks and the funds aren’t required to report their net asset value daily. If a closed-end fund is trading below its net asset value, it’s said to be trading at a discount. On the other hand, you’re trading at a premium when you purchase a fund that’s priced above its net asset value.
Net Asset Value (NAV) and Fund Performance
Net asset value may not be the best way to evaluate a fund because they pay out 90% of their income and capital gains each year. When distributions are made, the NAV for that fund will also decrease since the fund is paying out assets. A lower NAV that results from distributions doesn’t mean investors have lost money in the investment. They’ll still have the same value, however part will still be invested in the fund and the remaining will be held in cash. The fund’s total return is a better way to measure its performance.
You can use a website like Morningstar.com to find out the net asset value of a mutual fund. Remember, though, that the order price of a mutual fund may not match the net asset value at the time you check since net asset value is calculated after the markets close each day.
Before investing in a mutual fund, investors should read the fund’s prospectus which will give information about the funds objectives, risks, fees, and expenses. You contact the fund manager to get a copy of the prospectus. Many are available online at the firm’s website.