Fund Goal and Approach
The fund seeks to maximize total return, consisting of capital appreciation and current income. To pursue its goal, the fund normally invests at least 80% of its net assets, plus any borrowings for investment purposes, in fixed-income securities that, at the time of purchase, are rated below investment grade ("high yield" or "junk" bonds) or are the unrated equivalent as determined by The Dreyfus Corporation. The fund's portfolio may include various types of fixed-income securities, such as corporate bonds and notes, mortgage-related securities, asset-backed securities, zero coupon securities, convertible securities, preferred stock and other debt instruments of U.S. and foreign issuers.
High yield bonds are securities rated at the time of purchase BB or Ba and below by credit rating agencies such as Standard & Poor's or Moody's, or the unrated equivalent as determined by The Dreyfus Corporation. Because the issuers of high yield securities may be at an early stage of development or may have been unable to repay past debts, these bonds typically must offer higher yields than investment grade bonds to compensate investors for greater credit risk.
In choosing securities, the fund's portfolio managers seek to capture the higher yields offered by junk bonds, while managing credit risk and the volatility caused by interest rate movements. The fund's investment process involves a "top down" approach to security selection. The fund looks at a variety of factors when assessing a potential investment, including the state of the industry or sector, the company's financial strength, and the company's management. The fund also looks for companies that are underleveraged, have positive free cash flow, and are self-financing. There are no restrictions on the dollar-weighted average maturity or average effective duration of the fund's portfolio or on the maturities or durations of the individual fixed-income securities the fund may purchase.
The fund also may invest up to 5% of its assets directly in the common stock of high yield bond issuers. This percentage will be in addition to any other common stock acquired as part of warrants or "units," so that the fund's total common stock holdings could exceed 5% at a particular time. However, the fund currently intends to invest directly in common stocks (including those offered in an initial public offering) to gain sector exposure and when suitable high yield bonds are not available, and expects to sell the common stock promptly when suitable high yield bonds are subsequently acquired.
The fund's portfolio managers will sell a security if they believe it is overvalued from a valuation standpoint, another sector becomes relatively more attractive, and/or they expect fundamentals to deteriorate.
The fund may, but is not required to, use certain derivatives, such as options, futures and options on futures (including those relating to securities, foreign currencies, indexes and interest rates), forward contracts, and swaps (including interest rate and credit default swaps), as a substitute for investing directly in an underlying asset, to increase returns, to manage credit or interest rate risk, or as part of a hedging strategy. The fund, however, intends to use options, futures and options on futures only as part of a hedging strategy. The fund may enter into swap agreements, such as interest rate swaps and credit default swaps, which can be used to transfer the interest rate or credit risk of a security without actually transferring ownership of the security or to customize exposure to particular corporate credit. A credit default swap is a derivative instrument whereby the buyer makes fixed, periodic premium payments to the seller in exchange for being made whole on an agreed-upon amount of principal, should the specified reference entity (i.e., the issuer of a particular security) experience a "credit event" (e.g., failure to pay interest or principal, bankruptcy or restructuring).
The fund also may invest in collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), which include collateralized loan obligations and other similarly structured securities. To enhance current income, the fund may engage in a series of purchase and sale contracts or forward roll transactions in which the fund sells a mortgage-related security, for example, to a financial institution and simultaneously agrees to purchase a similar security from the institution at a later date at an agreed upon price. The fund also may make forward commitments in which the fund agrees to buy or sell a security in the future at a price agreed upon today. The fund also may engage in short-selling, typically for hedging purposes, such as to limit exposure to a possible market decline in the value of its portfolio securities.
An investment in the fund is not a bank deposit. It is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or any other government agency. It is not a complete investment program. The fund's share price fluctuates, sometimes dramatically, which means you could lose money.
* Credit risk. Failure of an issuer to make timely interest or principal payments, or a decline or perception of a decline in the credit quality of a bond, can cause a bond's price to fall, potentially lowering the fund's share price. The lower a bond's credit rating, the greater the chance ¿ in the rating agency's opinion ¿ that the bond issuer will default or fail to meet its payment obligations. High yield ("junk") bonds involve greater credit risk, including the risk of default, than investment grade bonds, and are considered predominantly speculative with respect to the issuer¿s ability to make principal and interest payments. The prices of high yield bonds can fall dramatically in response to bad news about the issuer or its industry, or the economy in general.
* Interest rate risk. Prices of bonds tend to move inversely with changes in interest rates. Typically, a rise in rates will adversely affect bond prices and, accordingly, the fund's share price. The longer the effective maturity and duration of the fund's fixed-income portfolio, the more the fund's share price is likely to react to interest rates. Unlike investment grade bonds, however, the prices of high yield ("junk") bonds may fluctuate unpredictably and not necessarily inversely with changes in interest rates.
* Market risk. The market value of a security may decline due to general market conditions that are not specifically related to a particular company, such as real or perceived adverse economic conditions, changes in the outlook for corporate earnings, changes in interest or currency rates or adverse investor sentiment generally. A security's market value also may decline because of factors that affect a particular industry or industries, such as labor shortages or increased production costs and competitive conditions within an industry, or factors that affect a particular company, such as management performance, financial leverage, and reduced demand for the company's products or services.
* Liquidity risk. When there is little or no active trading market for specific types of securities, it can become more difficult to sell the securities at or near their perceived value. In such a market, the value of such securities and the fund's share price may fall dramatically, even during periods of declining interest rates. Liquidity risk also exists when a particular derivative instrument is difficult to purchase or sell. If a derivative transaction is particularly large or if the relevant market is illiquid (as is the case with many privately negotiated derivatives, including swap agreements), it may not be possible to initiate a transaction or liquidate a position at an advantageous time or price.
* Mortgage-related securities risk. Mortgage-related securities are complex derivative instruments, subject to credit, prepayment and extension risk, and may be more volatile and less liquid, and more difficult to price accurately, than more traditional debt securities. The fund is subject to the credit risk associated with these securities, including the market's perception of the creditworthiness of the issuing federal agency, as well as the credit quality of the underlying assets. Although certain mortgage-related securities are guaranteed as to the timely payment of interest and principal by a third party (such as a U.S. government agency or instrumentality with respect to government-related mortgage-backed securities) the market prices for such securities are not guaranteed and will fluctuate. Declining interest rates may result in the prepayment of higher yielding underlying mortgages and the reinvestment of proceeds at lower interest rates can reduce the fund's potential price gain in response to falling interest rates, reduce the fund's yield or cause the fund's share price to fall (prepayment risk). Rising interest rates may result in a drop in prepayments of the underlying mortgages, which would increase the fund's sensitivity to rising interest rates and its potential for price declines (extension risk).
* Market sector risk. The fund may significantly overweight or underweight certain companies, industries or market sectors, which may cause the fund's performance to be more or less sensitive to developments affecting those companies, industries or sectors.
* Derivatives risk. A small investment in derivatives could have a potentially large impact on the fund's performance. The use of derivatives involves risks different from, or possibly greater than, the risks associated with investing directly in the underlying assets. Derivatives can be highly volatile, illiquid and difficult to value. There is the risk that changes in the value of a derivative held by the fund will not correlate with the underlying instruments or the fund's other investments. Derivative instruments also involve the risk that a loss may be sustained as a result of the failure of the counterparty to the derivative instruments to make required payments or otherwise comply with the derivative instruments' terms. Certain types of derivatives involve greater risks than the underlying obligations because, in addition to general market risks, they are subject to illiquidity risk, counterparty risk and credit risk. Because many derivatives have a leverage component, adverse changes in the value or level of the underlying asset, reference rate or index can result in a loss substantially greater than the amount invested in the derivative itself. Certain derivatives have the potential for unlimited loss, regardless of the size of the initial investment.
* Leverage risk. The use of leverage, such as borrowing money to purchase securities, engaging in reverse repurchase agreements, lending portfolio securities, entering into futures contracts and engaging in forward commitment transactions, may magnify the fund's gains or losses.
Investors should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses of the fund carefully before investing. Download a prospectus, or a summary prospectus, if available, that contains this and other information about the fund, and read it carefully before investing.