Course 208: Examining a Stock Fund's Portfolio, Part 2
Turnover Rates
In this course
1 Introduction
2 Sector Weightings
3 Average Market Capitalization
4 Price/Earnings and Price/Book Ratios
5 Number of Holdings
6 Turnover Rates

A fund's turnover rate represents the percentage of a fund's holdings that have changed over the past year, and it gives an idea of how long a manager holds on to a stock. Fund accountants calculate a fund's turnover rate by dividing its total sales or purchases (excluding cash), whichever is less, by its average monthly assets during the year. You can translate this math easily: A fund that trades 25% of its portfolio each year holds a stock for four years, on average.

Despite its seeming simplicity, turnover rates have their quirks. For instance, a dramatic change in the fund's asset base (the turnover ratio's denominator) can give a false impression of a fund's trading activity. If the manager doesn't change her trading pace, a fund's turnover ratio will decline as assets rise. Conversely, a shrinking asset base can inflate a fund's turnover ratio.

Turnover can give you a sense of a manager's trading activity, but don't read too much into a fund's turnover rate, particularly with bond funds. In general, buy-and-hold managers will have lower turnover rates than managers who trade on short-term factors. And generally, very high-turnover managers tend to practice aggressive strategies. With bond funds, though, quite often managers employ cash-management strategies that inflate turnover rates. It's not uncommon to see turnover rates of 300% or more, even in funds that aren't particularly aggressive.

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