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Three Bond Funds Varied by Style

The three bond funds to most recently join the pool of those graded by Ratings are notable in that each represents a major area of fixed-income investing: high-yield, municipal or general bonds.

The trio of funds, summarized in the table, also vary in that they run the gamut of recommendations generated by Ratings grades:

  • A mark of D-minus by the Janus Adviser High-Yield Fund (JHYAX) equates to a sell recommendation.
  • The B-minus earned by the JP Morgan Tax Aware Real Return Fund (TXRAX) placed earned it a place among the buy-recommended funds.
  • The C-minus grade for the Russell Investment Grade Bond Fund (RFACX) puts it in the hold-rated group.

The Janus Advisor High-Yield offering is candid about its leanings toward the dicey end of the risk/return spectrum.

"The investment seeks to obtain high current income with a secondary consideration of capital appreciation," Janus says in the fund's statement of objective. "The fund normally invests at least 80% of assets in high-yield/high-risk securities rated below investment grade, which may include their unrated equivalents or other high-yielding securities the portfolio manager believes offer attractive risk/return characteristics."

The Janus fund also discloses that it will go where necessary to achieve its goals. Its objective statement continues that the fund "may invest without limit in foreign debt and equity securities, which may include investments in emerging markets."

On the other hand, the JP Morgan fund makes it clear up front that it "seeks to maximize after-tax inflation protected return.

The fund primarily invests in municipal debt whose interest payments are excluded from federal income tax. It also invests in derivative instruments, such as inflation-linked swaps. It may also utilize Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) and municipal inflation-linked securities. The fund invests no more than 10% of assets in below investment grade debt."

As its name suggests, the Russell Investment Grade Bond Fund is rather mainstream in its approach bond investing.

"The investment seeks to provide current income and the preservation of capital," states Russell. "The fund invests primarily in investment-grade fixed-income securities issued or guaranteed by the U.S. government. It normally invests at least 80% of assets in bonds. The duration of the portfolio typically ranges within 10% of the duration of the Lehman Brothers Aggregate Bond index, but may vary up to 25% from the index duration. The fund has no restrictions on individual security duration."

Janus Adviser High-Yield A JPMorgan Tax Aware Real Return A Russell Investment Grade Bond C
INVESTMENT OBJECTIVE Corporate - High Yield Municipal - Insured General Bond - Investment Grade RATINGS GRADE D- B- C-
MAX. INITIAL. SALES CHARGE (%) 4.75 3.75 0
MIN. INITIAL INVESTMENT ($) 2,500 1,000 0
TOTAL EXPENSE RATIO (%) 1.20 0.76 1.55
Yield (%) 8.95 2.86 3.52
3-MO. TOTAL RET'N (%) -1.66 0.29 -1.14
YR.-TO-DATE TOTAL RET'N (%) -1.70 2.99 -2.01
12-MO TOTAL RET'N (%) -0.37 6.21 1.14
3-YR. ANNUALIZED RET'N (%) 3.43 3.28 2.26
Data as of 8/31/2008.
Source: Ratings

For more info, check out an explanation of our ratings.

Richard Widows is a senior financial analyst for Ratings. Prior to joining, Widows was senior product manager for quantitative analytics at Thomson Financial. After receiving an M.B.A. from Santa Clara University in California, his career included development of investment information systems at data firms, including the Lipper division of Reuters. His international experience includes assignments in the U.K. and East Asia.

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