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Originally published Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 8:02 PM

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Coming to terms: Unit investment trusts

A unit investment trust (UIT) invests in a relatively fixed portfolio of investments. These are held until the trust is liquidated at a predetermined date in the future.

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Q: What’s the difference between unit investment trusts and mutual funds?

A: Mutual-fund managers invest in assets (such as stocks or bonds) according to stated sets of objectives.

Shares are issued and redeemed on demand at a specific net asset value determined at the end of each trading day (based on the total market value of the fund’s holdings).

The number of shares is not fixed. If many people want to buy in, the fund company will issue more shares.

Meanwhile, a unit investment trust (UIT) invests in a relatively fixed portfolio of investments.

These are held until the trust is liquidated at a predetermined date in the future.

Investors who want to trade shares of a UIT before it matures can often do so in the secondary market.

Unlike a mutual fund, UIT share prices in the secondary market may be priced above or below the net asset value of the trust’s actual holdings.

When you buy shares of UITs, you typically pay a sales fee, or load, of around 4 or 5 percent; many mutual funds carry no sales load at all.

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