A Guide to Closed-End Funds
What Is a Closed-End Fund?
Features of Closed-End Funds
Types of Closed-End Funds
Sources of Closed-End Fund Information
Regulation and Disclosure
Fees and Expenses
Buying and Selling Shares
For More Information
This guide includes an overview of the types of closed-end funds and how they operate. However, each closed-end fund is different, and investors should learn more about a particular fund before investing. Closed-end funds—like all investments—involve risk, including the possible loss of principal.
Closed-end funds are professionally managed investment companies. They generally issue a fixed number of common shares that are listed on a stock exchange. Once issued, a closed-end fund’s common shares typically are not purchased or redeemed directly by the fund, but instead are bought and sold in the open market. The market price of closed-end fund shares fluctuates like that of other publicly traded securities. Closed-end funds invest in a wide variety of domestic and international securities, including common stocks, preferred stocks, high-yield bonds, municipal bonds, and corporate bonds.
A closed-end fund raises cash for investment by selling a fixed number of shares during an initial public offering (IPO), and the manager invests the cash in accordance with the fund’s investment objectives and policies. The fund does not issue redeemable securities and typically does not offer its securities for sale on an ongoing basis.
Because a closed-end fund does not need to maintain cash reserves or sell securities to meet redemptions, the fund has the flexibility to invest in less-liquid portfolio securities. For example, a closed-end fund may invest in securities of very small companies, municipal bonds that are not widely traded, or securities traded in countries that do not have fully developed securities markets. Closed-end funds also have flexibility to borrow against their assets, allowing them to use leverage as part of their investment strategy.
There are two main types of closed-end funds—bond and equity. Bond closed-end funds accounted for more than half of all closed-end fund assets at year-end 2012. Of the total $264 billion invested in closed-end funds at the end of 2012, $163 billion, or 62 percent, was invested in bond funds and $101 billion, or 38 percent, was invested in equity funds. Bond funds were the most common type of closed-end fund, accounting for 65 percent of the total number of funds.
Assets of Closed-End Funds
Billions of dollars, year-end, 2002–2012
Note: Components may not add to the total because of rounding.
Source: Investment Company Institute
Number of Closed-End Funds
Source: Investment Company Institute
Closed-End Bond Funds
All closed-end bond funds are subject to some degree of market risk and credit risk. Market risk is the risk that interest rates will rise, lowering the value of bonds held in the fund’s portfolio. Generally speaking, the longer the remaining maturity of a fund’s portfolio securities, the greater the volatility of its net asset value (NAV) due to market risk. Credit risk is the risk that issuers of bonds held by the fund will default on their promise to pay principal and interest. A closed-end bond fund’s investment policies typically define the credit quality and maturity of the investments the fund may make.
Closed-End Equity Funds
All closed-end equity funds are subject to the risk that the portfolio securities held by the fund will decline in value, thus causing a decline in the fund’s NAV and market price. The value of a particular stock in a fund’s portfolio may increase or decrease for a variety of reasons, including the business activities and financial condition of the issuer of the stock, market and economic conditions affecting the issuer’s business, or the stock market generally.
Information on closed-end funds, including NAVs, market prices, and discounts or premiums, can be found in stock market tables on most major financial websites and in the financial pages of most major newspapers.
Some stock market tables offer other information, including a closed-end fund’s high and low market prices for the past 52 weeks; distributions paid to shareholders during the past 12 months; and the high, low, and closing market prices for the previous day.
Column 1: The name of the closed-end fund and its ticker symbol.
Column 2: NAV—the total market value of the closed-end fund’s portfolio securities less expenses and liabilities divided by the number of shares outstanding.
Column 3: The market price of the closed-end fund.
Column 4: The premium or discount above or below the fund’s NAV per share at which the shares last sold.
Column 5: The 52-week market return for the closed-end fund.
Other sources of information about closed-end funds include the financial press and the fund sponsor. Many closed-end fund sponsors have personnel available to answer questions about the fund and to provide written information. In addition, periodic reports, proxy statements, and, in some cases, fund registration statements, can be found on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) website at www.sec.gov.
Many closed-end funds calculate the value of their portfolios every business day, while others calculate their portfolio values weekly or on some other basis. The NAV of a closed-end fund is calculated by subtracting the fund’s liabilities (e.g., fund expenses) from the current market value of its securities and other assets, then dividing by the total number of shares outstanding. The NAV changes as the total value of the underlying portfolio securities rises or falls.
Because a closed-end fund’s shares trade in the stock market based on investor demand, the fund may trade at a price higher or lower than its NAV. For example, a closed-end fund in great demand may trade at a share price higher than its NAV. In this case, the fund’s shares are said to be selling at a “premium” to the NAV.
The opposite also may be true. For a variety of reasons, which may include a less favorable perception of its underlying portfolio or of the market in which it trades, or a lack of investor knowledge or market recognition, a fund may trade at a share price lower than its NAV. Such a fund’s shares are said to be selling at a “discount” to the NAV. For example, if a fund has a NAV of $100, based on the current value of its portfolio, but is priced at $90, it is selling at a 10 percent discount. Viewed from another perspective, when a share is trading at a 10 percent discount to NAV, an investor can purchase a $100 share of the fund’s assets for $90.
Fund management may take measures in an attempt to reduce discounts, including increasing market visibility of the fund through public reports and communications. A closed-end fund also may attempt to increase the demand for its shares by offering a dividend reinvestment plan, engaging in tender offers (the fund offers to purchase its shares directly from shareholders at NAV), or instituting a stock purchase program (the fund purchases its shares on the open market). Further, some closed-end funds periodically may consider converting to either an open-end fund or an exchange-traded fund, which would permit shareholders to redeem their shares at NAV.
Of course, any such measures must be approved by the fund’s board of directors as consistent with the best interests of the fund.
A closed-end fund’s investment return has three components:
- Share price appreciation or depreciation: A closed-end fund’s share price may increase or decrease based on the market demand for the fund’s shares. Market demand for fund shares may be influenced by many factors, including market perceptions about the fund or its investment manager, perceptions about the types of securities or geographic region in which the fund invests, and the investment performance of the fund.
- Income from interest and dividends: A closed-end fund may earn interest and dividend income from securities held in its portfolio. This income, minus fund operating costs, typically is paid to shareholders as distributions. If a fund’s distribution payments exceed the dividends and interest the fund earns on its portfolio during the fiscal year, shareholders will receive distributions of capital gains or the capital (or principal) they invested in the fund.
- Capital gains distributions: If a fund profits from selling securities during a calendar year, the fund may distribute the gains to investors. Distributions of capital gains typically occur annually near the end of the calendar year. Some funds distribute capital gains more frequently pursuant to managed distribution plans.
In order to avoid the imposition of federal tax at the fund level, a closed-end fund must meet IRS requirements for sources of income and diversification of portfolio holdings, and must distribute substantially all of its income and capital gains to shareholders annually.
Generally, shareholders of closed-end funds must pay income taxes on the income and capital gains distributed to them. Each closed-end fund will provide an IRS Form 1099 to its shareholders annually that summarizes the fund’s distributions. When a shareholder sells shares of a closed-end fund, the shareholder may realize either a taxable gain or a loss.
Closed-end funds are regulated under federal laws designed to protect investors. The Investment Company Act of 1940 requires all funds to register with the SEC to meet certain operating standards and to deliver information to investors; the Securities Act of 1933 requires registration of the fund’s shares and the delivery of a prospectus to investors who purchase shares in the IPO; and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 regulates the secondary market trading of the fund’s shares and establishes antifraud standards governing such trading. Finally, the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 regulates the conduct of fund investment managers and requires them to register with the SEC.
All U.S.-registered closed-end funds are subject to stringent laws and oversight by the SEC and the exchanges on which their shares are listed. All funds must provide a written prospectus containing complete disclosure about the fund when its shares are initially offered to the public. Following the IPO, other disclosure documents, including the annual and semiannual reports and the proxy statement, provide information to investors.
The SEC conducts inspections of fund operations to determine compliance with applicable laws and SEC regulations. Stock exchanges on which a fund’s shares are listed also impose certain requirements. Stock exchanges require the prompt public disclosure of material information and require certain corporate governance and management procedures, including annual shareholder meetings.
A closed-end fund incurs operating expenses, including those associated with fund portfolio management, fund business operations, custody of the fund’s assets, and shareholder services. These operating expenses are paid by the fund from its assets before any distributions are made to investors. A fund’s expenses are summarized in a fee table included in the fund’s prospectus. Updated expense information is provided in a fund’s semiannual and annual reports to shareholders.
Closed-end fund shares are bought and sold in the same way one would buy corporate stocks—through registered broker-dealers.
During the IPO, a fixed number of closed-end fund shares are offered to investors. After the IPO, an investor may purchase shares of existing closed-end funds in the secondary market.
In an IPO, a closed-end fund’s shares typically are sold subject to a sales charge that is paid to the underwriter and the broker-dealer who sells the shares. A closed-end fund investor buying or selling shares in the secondary market likely will pay a sales commission to a broker at the time of the transaction. The purchase or sale price for shares reflects the current market price, adjusted for the brokerage commission.
To raise additional capital, a closed-end fund may make additional public offerings of its shares. A fund also may institute a rights offering, in which shareholders of the fund are issued rights to purchase additional fund shares at a price established by the fund, usually at a discount to NAV.
The annual and semiannual reports that closed-end funds provide to shareholders contain financial statements and information on the fund’s portfolio, performance, and investment goals and policies. A fund’s annual report contains financial statements that have been audited by the fund’s independent public accountants and management’s discussion of fund operations, investment results, and strategies. In addition, a fund or an investor’s broker may provide statements that update and summarize individual account holdings and values.
- “The Closed-End Fund Market, 2012,” ICI Research Perspective
- Frequently Asked Questions About Closed-End Funds and Their Use of Leverage
- Find quarterly updates to closed-end fund asset data at www.ici.org/research/stats/closedend