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High-Yield Bonds

Morningstar fund analysts’ favorites in this riskier area of the fixed-income market.
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Morningstar Analyst Rating
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Among the appealing aspects of high-yield bonds (sometimes called “junk bonds”) is that, as their name implies, they offer higher yields than higher-quality bonds. In addition, high-yield bonds tend to trade more with broad credit markets, or the economic outlook, or a particular company’s outlook than they do with Treasuries, making them less sensitive to interest-rate rises. But high-yield bonds also have their fair share of drawbacks, including a fairly high correlation with stocks. These bonds have a higher risk of default due to issuers’ heavy debt burdens and/or business risk. Before venturing into the sector, investors will want to check any existing exposure to high yield (via more diversified bond funds), and their appetite for volatility. If you decide to add a dedicated high-yield fund, our Morningstar Medalists in the category are a good place to start.

List Criteria

High-Yield Bond

Funds in this Morningstar category have at least 65% of assets in bonds rated below BBB.

Medalist Funds (Gold, Silver, or Bronze)

The Analyst Rating for Funds is based on our fund analysts’ conviction in a fund’s ability to outperform its peer group (funds in the same category) and benchmark on a risk-adjusted basis over the long term. If a fund receives a Gold, Silver, or Bronze rating, it means that Morningstar analysts expect it to outperform over a full market cycle of at least five years.

No-Load Funds

This list includes only no-load funds. “No load” refers to a mutual fund that does not charge a fee (known as a load) for buying or selling its shares; the investor typically buys no-load funds directly from a fund company or through a fund supermarket. Load funds, on the other hand, are sold by an advisor or broker and charge a percentage fee at purchase or sale of the shares, which is meant to be compensation for the planner’s investment-selection advice. (Note: Not all advisors sell load funds. Many are compensated via a flat fee or a percentage of all assets under management.) Whether a fund charges a load or not isn’t a reflection of its underlying quality. Many load funds are also Medalists, and some load funds are available without a load through 401(k) or other retirement plans. But we’re including only no-load funds here, since this list is designed to help investors who are primarily doing their own fund-picking.

Open to New Investment

All the funds on this list are open for new investment. Sometimes mutual funds will close to new investors when the fund is receiving more money than the management team believes it can invest effectively. Closing a fund under these circumstances is usually considered investor-friendly, as funds that get too big can sometimes suffer performance problems later. Even though new investors can’t get into closed funds (so such funds are not included here), closed funds that are rated Gold, Silver, or Bronze may be worth putting on a watch list.

Distinct Portfolios Only

Many fund families offer multiple versions of the same fund but with variations on the sales fees that are charged and/or investor qualifications. Screening for “distinct portfolios only” removes all but one of these options to avoid having several share classes of the same offering cluttering the list. Morningstar normally designates the oldest share class as the distinct portfolio. In some cases, this share class may be for institutions (such as company retirement funds) or otherwise have a high investment minimum. In those cases, investors may want to consider an “investor” share class of the same fund, though the fund expenses may be higher for those share classes.