In investors' epic search for yield, one strategy in particular has risen to the top this year—loan participation mutual funds and ETFs.

With net inflows to both products reaching over $23 billion this year (through May 8), they are the most popular draw in the fixed-income market. They've even outpaced emerging market equity funds and ETFs as the top attraction overall for the year. Although the strategies have been around for a long time, a combination of factors—including investor concerns about credit risk, interest-rate risk and general volatility—have made them the belles of the ball in 2013.

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