The U.S. News Best Mutual Fund rankings combine expert analyst opinions and fund-level data to rank over 4,500 mutual funds. Rankings reflect a variety of popular fund rating systems which track funds’ historical and current performance, risk and other metrics to help investors understand each fund’s overall strategy and quality
What is a Mutual Fund?
Mutual funds continue to be among the most popular investing tools for both individual and professional investors who seek to beat the market or simply access a broad swath of investments rather than purchase stocks or bonds individually. Unlike stocks or exchange-traded funds, mutual funds trade just once per day, and many investors own them as part of a defined contribution retirement plan such as a 401(k) or an individual retirement account, known as an IRA. The price of a mutual fund share is known as the fund's net asset value, or NAV.
There are currently more than 9,000 mutual funds that hold more than $16 trillion in assets. In part because of increased competition for those assets from lower-cost ETFs, mutual fund expenses continue to decline. Expense ratios averaged 0.63 percent in 2016 compared with 1.04 percent in 1996, according to the Investment Company Institute, though some funds levy additional management fees or sales charges that buyers should be aware of before purchasing.
While some mutual funds are index funds, which aim to track the performance of a specific market index, most are actively managed, meaning fund managers follow an investment strategy to buy and sell a variety of securities in an attempt to beat the market. There are funds that focus on nearly every part of the market, and buyers can invest in a variety of assets including equities, bonds, real estate and commodities.