Debt Fund Investors are usually confused as whether to go for Duration-based funds or funds with Accrual Strategy. Let’s understand the basic rationale of the strategies.
Duration Based Strategy:
The funds which follow the Duration based strategy invest in long term bonds and benefit from the fall in interest rates. They earn from capital appreciation along with the coupon of the bond. These funds are exposed to interest rate risk and if the interest rates move up these funds bear capital losses.
All long term Income and Gilt Funds follow the duration based strategy.
These funds are advisable for investors who can ride with the volatility associated with the fund. The Funds can generate better return in a time when the interest rates are set to move downwards.
Accrual Based Strategy:
The funds which follow accrual strategy generally buy short term instruments and prefer to hold till maturity, this reduces the interest rate risk. Corporate bond funds invest in high yielding corporate bonds which have a shorter maturity period.
FMPs, Ultra Short term bond funds and Short term bond funds follow this strategy.
If an investor needs a steady return from his Debt portfolio and is not ready to take higher risk he should invest in Accrual based funds.
An Investor can also adopt a combination of both the type of funds in his debt portfolio as per his risk profile.
How to decide
Both the strategies have their own merits and have different risk reward proposition for the investor.
Let’s compare the performance of Income Funds of both the categories:
Looking to the returns of last one year we find that both the categories have earned similar returns, but as we move to the most volatile period i.e from 15th July 2013 till date we find the Accrual funds have flared well compared to the duration ones.
The Accrual funds benefited because of two reasons, first they generally carry a shorter maturity of around 1.5 to 3 years and interest rates in India at the shorter end are quite attractive compared to longer end secondly these funds have not faced redemption pressures as the investors were restrained by heavy exit load in some of the funds.
The current scenario depicts a risk reward in favour of the shorter end of the curve. The RBI shocker has disproportionately impacted the short term curve and we feel the investor should choose a mix of funds few with extreme shorter maturities and few with longer maturities. The strategy will effectively give a balanced duration to the portfolio and capture the opportunities given the inverse yield curve.