Bond funds invest primarily in bonds or other types of debt securities. They generally have higher risks than money market funds, primarily because they typically pursue strategies aimed at producing higher yields. Unlike money market funds, the SEC’s rules do not restrict bond funds to high quality or short-term investments. Because there are many different types of bonds, bond funds can vary dramatically in their risks and rewards. Some of the risks associated with bond funds include:
Credit Risk is the possibility that companies or other issuers whose bonds are owned by the fund may fail to pay their debts (including the debt owed to holders of their bonds). Credit risk is less of a factor for bond funds that invest in insured bonds or U.S. Treasury Bonds. By contrast, those that invest in the bonds of companies with poor credit ratings generally will be subject to higher risk.
Interest Rate Risk is the risk that the market value of the bonds will go down when interest rates go up. Because of this, an investor can lose money in any bond fund, including those that invest only in insured bonds or U.S. Treasury Bonds. Funds that invest in longer-term bonds tend to have higher interest rate risk.
Prepayment Risk is the chance that a bond will be paid off early. For example, if interest rates fall, a bond issuer may decide to pay off (or retire) its debt and issue new bonds that pay a lower rate. When this happens, the fund may not be able to reinvest the proceeds in an investment with as high a return or yield.
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