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Mutual Funds - If you dont have expertise, stay away from sectoral or thematic funds
06-Aug-2019
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Thematic or sectoral funds are mutual funds that invest in a particular industry or sector or around a theme. Some of these funds are investing in sectors such as technology, banking and financial services, utilities, auto and auto ancillaries, real estate, and so on. They could also be following a particular theme like consumption and investing in consumer goods, healthcare, and financial services companies, among others.

According to the latest Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) directives, a fund can be deemed as thematic or sectoral if it invests at least 80% of its assets in that sector or theme. These funds are considered high-risk investments as a majority of their investments are linked to a particular sector. Any adverse impact on the sector due to change in the macro or micro economy, changed business regulations or change in consumer behaviour or technology can in hit investments. In other generic funds, since the investments are diversified, any adverse impact to a particular sector can be nullified by positive news on other sector allocations. This diversification is not possible in sectoral or thematic funds.

That’s why, timing one’s entry and exit in these funds becomes quite important. The annualized returns for five-year periods for Franklin India Technology Fund that was launched in 1998 (at the peak of the tech boom), show a wide difference depending on the entry and exit timing. For instance, in the five-year period between 1998 and 2003, the fund gave 26% annualized returns, but between 2003 and 2008, another five-year period, it gave only 10%. However, timing the market is very difficult, especially for retail investors.

Since sectoral or thematic funds come with higher risks, investments in these must be done only on the advice of experts or if the investors are experts themselves in understanding stocks and stock markets. Some of the sectors are cyclical and hence understanding these cycles becomes important as well. These business cycles can be short or long, depending on the specific sector. As timing of these investments and redemption plays a very important role in the returns being generated by such funds, a lot more careful analysis and planning is required before investing. One can also adopt different strategies with these funds, some for long-term growth (sunrise sectors/themes), some for medium-term tactical gains (cyclical/beaten down sectors) and some for defensive strategies.

Also, there are some sectors or themes that are coming in vogue or their business cycles are on their way up. These cycles can fully play out and reach their peaks in the medium term (three to five years) or can take even longer. Hence, not just knowledge of these cycles but also patience in allowing the cycles to fully play out is important. Retail investors should seek professional advice both at the time of entry and exit from these funds.

Source : Live Mint back