Messages: What Members Are Asking On-Line
by CI Staff
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Fund Distribution Data
It is a very frustrating job to find up-to-date and accurate mutual fund distribution data. There must be a decent database somewhere. Barrons Online shows the latest only.
Do you have any suggestions? Seems like this would be one of the major needs of those trying to keep track of fund performance.
CI editors respond:
Mutual fund companies disseminate their daily NAVs (net asset values) through the Nasdaq data feed. The feed notes that a fund went ex-dividend on a given date, but as you have discovered, obtaining a thorough and accurate fund distribution history is difficult.
Companies that calculate and distribute mutual fund return information such as Lipper, Morningstar, and S&P Micropal collect and note the distribution amount, distribution type (income, short-term capital gain, and long-term capital gain), and the reinvest price, along with shareholder of record date, distribution date and reinvest date. AAII now obtains its mutual fund performance data from S&P Micropal, but when we used to calculate the performance figures ourselves, the only reliable source of this information was the fund company itself.
Morningstar provides detailed fund data on its Web site (www.morningstar.com), but it does not detail distribution information. Ironically, Morningstars Web site provides a five-year distribution history for stocks on its site, but not for funds.
Yahoo! Finance (finance.yahoo.com) is a free site that offers historical prices and distributions. Clicking the Historical Prices link when examining a fund will bring up a historical NAV listing that also lists any stock or cash distributions (see the figure above). The only weaknesses we have found with the data are that no indication is given as to whether a specific distribution is classified as income or capital gains and the level of precision is limited to three decimal places.
As it turns out, the most reliable source for distribution data is still the mutual fund company itself. Most fund families maintain Web sites that provide current NAV values, a historical record of distributions and reinvestment values, along with downloadable reports and prospectuses. The figure at left shows the distribution data presented on Vanguards Web site for the same fund highlighted in the figure above. The distribution type is identified along with reinvest date and reinvest price, and the distribution amount is presented out to five decimal places.
While it is extra work going to the family Web site of each fund to obtain distribution data, it seems to be your best bet for accurate data.