What Is an Asset Class Breakdown?

An asset class breakdown provides the percentages of core asset classes found within a mutual fund, exchange-traded fund, or another portfolio. Asset classes (in microeconomics and beyond) generally refer to broad categories such as equities, fixed income, and commodities. Often, sub-asset classes may be reported in concentrated portfolios or for more granular detail.

Key Takeaways

  • An asset class breakdown demonstrates how certain core asset classes are accounted for in an investment portfolio.
  • Asset classes can include stocks, bonds, commodities, cash, real estate, and currencies.
  • Asset class breakdowns help investors understand the nuts and bolts of their portfolios, management's goals, the distribution of funds, and the inherent risks. 

Understanding Asset Class Breakdowns

An asset class breakdown represents the distribution of assets in a portfolio. Breakdowns are calculated by dividing the market value of a particular asset class's holdings by the fund’s total assets. Comprehensive asset class breakdowns are typically provided to help an investor understand the fund's investment objective and risk management strategy.

Investing by asset class is a primary way for investors and professional portfolio managers to manage risk. Asset classes may include cash, fixed income, equities, commodities, and real estate. Each has its risk characteristics and return opportunities. Fixed income and equity investments are typically asset classes used for core holdings. Both have multiple investment options, with fixed income used for more conservative investments and equities used for more aggressive allocations.

Cash investments are the most conservative and can include high-yield savings accounts and money market funds.

Types of Sub-Asset Class Breakdowns

Sub-asset class breakdowns are also often used in due diligence fund reporting and can provide similar support for investors. Sub-asset class breakdowns may be used when a fund is highly concentrated in one asset class.

Fixed income sub-asset class breakdowns can include a wide range of loans, government bonds, corporate bonds, and municipal bonds. Equity sub-asset classes can consist of special categories such as real estate investment trusts (REITs) and master limited partnerships (MLPs). They may also include market capitalization breakdowns such as small-cap, mid-cap, and large-cap or investment styles such as growth stocks and value stocks. Investing in international investments can add sub-asset class components for investments.

Example of Asset Allocation Breakdown

60/40 funds are a popular choice for investors seeking balanced asset allocation fund options. The BlackRock 60/40 Target Allocation Fund provides one example for investors. This Fund uses a fund-of-funds approach to provide a 60/40 asset class breakdown between equity and fixed income.

Individual fund holdings are used to provide exposure to various sub-asset classes, including U.S. stocks, developed market stocks, international stocks, and 7- to 10-year Treasury bonds. BlackRock's asset allocation funds include the 40/60 Target Allocation Fund, 80/20 Target Allocation Fund, and the 20/80 Target Allocation Fund.

Special Considerations

The asset class breakdown is often used in marketing the fund to investors since it is a simple way to present the approximate risk profile of a fund. Asset allocation funds will generally vary by asset mix, often marketed as conservative, moderate, or aggressive funds.

Higher equity exposure is typically found in more aggressive growth funds. Moderate funds tend to have a balanced asset allocation approach that is evenly weighted between equity and fixed income. Overall, modern portfolio theory suggests that asset allocation can be a crucial determinant for total return potential and risk characteristics.