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What are the different types of debt mutual funds in India

There are broadly seven types of debt mutual funds in India.

Gilt Funds:

Gilt funds invest in Government securities with varying maturities. Average maturities of government bonds in the portfolio of long term gilt funds are in the range of 15 to 30 years. The fund manager in long term gilt funds actively manage their portfolio and take duration calls with outlook on the interest rate. The returns of these funds are highly sensitive to interest rates movements. The NAVs of gilt funds can be extremely volatile. The primary objective of Gilt Funds is capital appreciation. Investors with moderate to high risk tolerance level, looking for capital appreciation, can invest in Gilt Funds.

Income Funds:

Income funds invest in a variety of fixed income securities such as bonds, debentures and government securities, across different maturity profiles. For example they can invest in 2 to 3 year corporate non convertible debenture and at the same time invest in a 20 year Government bond. Their investment strategy is a mix of both hold to maturity (accrual income) and duration calls. This enables them to earn good returns in different interest rate scenarios. However, the average maturities of securities in the portfolio of income funds are in the range of 7 to 20 years. Therefore, these funds are also highly sensitive to interest rate movements. However, the interest rate sensitivity of income funds is less than gilt funds. Investors with moderate to high risk tolerance level, looking for both income and capital appreciation in different interest rate scenarios, can invest in income funds.

Short Term Debt Funds:

Short term bond funds invest in Commercial Papers (CP), Certificate of Deposits (CD) and short maturity bonds. The average maturities of the securities in the portfolio of short term bond funds are in the range of 2 – 3 years. The fund managers employ a predominantly accrual (hold to maturity) strategy for these funds. Short term debt funds are suitable for investors with low risk tolerance, looking for stable income.

Credit Opportunities Funds:

Credit opportunities fund are similar to short term debt funds. The fund managers lock in a few percentage points of additional yield by investing in slightly lower rated corporate bonds. Despite the slightly lower credit rating of the bonds in the credit opportunities fund portfolio, on an average, majority of the bonds in the fund portfolios are rated AAA and AA. The average maturities of the bonds in the portfolio of credit opportunities funds are in the range of 2 – 3 years. The fund managers hold the bonds to maturity and so there is very little interest rate risk. Credit Opportunities funds are suitable for investors with low risk tolerance, looking for slightly higher income than short term debt funds.

Fixed Maturity Plans:

Fixed Maturity Plans (FMPs) are close ended schemes. In other words investors can subscribe to this scheme only during the offer period. The tenure of the scheme is fixed. FMPs invest in fixed income securities of maturities matching with the tenure of the scheme. This is done to reduce or prevent re-investment risk. Since the bonds in the FMP portfolio are held till maturity, the returns of FMPs are very stable. FMPs are suitable for investors with low risk tolerance, looking for stable returns and tax advantage over an investment period of 3 years or more. They can provide better post tax returns than bank fixed deposits and are attractive investment options when yields are high.

Liquid Funds:

Liquid fund are money market mutual funds and invest primarily in money market instruments like treasury bills, certificate of deposits and commercial papers and term deposits, with the objective of providing investors an opportunity to earn returns, without compromising on the liquidity of the investment. Typically they invest in money market securities that have a residual maturity of less than or equal to 91 days. Liquid funds give higher returns than savings bank. Unlike savings bank interest, no tax is deducted at source for liquid fund returns. There is no exit load. Withdrawals from liquid funds are processed within 24 hours on business days. Liquid funds are suitable for investors who have substantial amount of cash lying idle in their savings bank account.

Monthly Income Plans:

Monthly income plans are debt oriented hybrid mutual funds. These funds invest 75 – 80% of their portfolio in fixed income securities and the 20 – 25% in equities. The equity portion of the portfolio of Monthly Income Plans provides a kicker to the generally stable returns generated by the debt portion of the portfolio. Monthly income plans can generate higher returns from pure debt funds. However, the risk is also slightly higher in monthly income plans compared to most of the other debt fund categories.

Read more about different types of debt mutual funds in our article, Demystifying debt mutual funds.


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