A mutual fund is a professionally managed investment pool. If you want to plunge into the stock market, a fund can provide a way to spread your risk with a diversified portfolio under the management of a professional. With multiple sources of digital and hard-copy financial information available, tracking the net asset value, or NAV, of a mutual fund is easy.
Buy a copy of a daily financial newspaper such as the "Wall Street Journal" or "Investor's Business Daily." Go the stock market tables, which are in a separate, self-contained section of the paper, and look for a rubric on mutual funds. Most fund companies operate multiple portfolios, each with a specific investment theme. With print space limitations, however, not all funds are listed ("Fidelity Investments" alone ran 338 mutual funds as of October 2012). Find your fund family in the newspaper tables.Step 2
Find your fund and look across the table. Several columns are present, including one titled "NAV." The NAV is the per-share value of the fund's entire portfolio. It is calculated by the fund once a day, after the market close, meaning you won't be able to get NAV from the streaming price quotes offered on the Internet or television. After NAV should be a column giving the fund's performance year-to-date (YTD).Step 3
Go to the Internet, alternatively, and access a good financial site, which will offer complete information on the thousands of mutual funds in existence, as well as mobile apps that offer daily NAV and YTD performance quotes. Morningstar, for example, provides rankings and portfolio breakdowns in addition to NAV and performance data, as well as information on the fund manager and the fund's history. Yahoo and CNNMoney also offer comprehensive financial information, including mutual fund quotes.
- NAV pales in importance to YTD -- the performance of the fund in the current year. Most relevant of all if you are researching a future investment is the fund's ranking among all funds with a similar investment theme, as well as its performance against market averages such as the S&P 500, the Russell 2000 small-cap index and the Dow Jones Industrials.
- Mutual funds have ticker symbols, just like stocks. If you know the ticker symbol, you can enter it into a site offering daily or streaming financial quotes, or add it to a portfolio of investments that you're tracking, to get the NAV.
- If you've invested in a closed-end fund, NAV is irrelevant. Closed-ends fluctuate in price with supply and demand in the market and may be offered at a discount or premium to the net value of their portfolio. Money-market funds uniformly sell for $1 a share and vary only in their yield: the annualized return from dividends and interest on their assets.
Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.