World-bond and emerging-markets-bond funds are often considered niche investment categories, but they’ve been getting mainstream attention in recent years. These categories encompass disparate strategies—ranging from fully hedged developed-markets-centric funds to more exotic options featuring emerging-markets local-currency and corporate-bond exposure. Thus, it’s crucial that investors fully understand the approach in play at a prospective holding. (Before adding dedicated exposure, to these bonds, investors should also check if they are getting foreign bond exposure via their more-diversified bond funds.) Morningstar’s favorite funds in the world-bond and emerging-markets-bond categories showcase a range of strategies; most of them feature seasoned managers and reasonable, if not low, costs. Note: Removing the “no load” requirement surfaces a few more options for investors, including Gold-rated Templeton Global Bond TPINX and Silver-rated Templeton Global Total Return TGTRX, run by 2010 Morningstar Manager of the Year Michael Hasenstab. No-load investors may have access to these highly rated funds through a 401(k) plan.
Morningstar Analyst Rating
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Foreign Bond Funds
This list includes funds in Morningstar’s world bond and emerging-markets bond categories. World bond funds invest at least 40% of bonds in foreign markets. Emerging-markets bond funds invest at least 65% of assets in the government and/or corporate bonds of developing countries.
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.
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-or even restrict existing fundholders from investing more money-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.